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SOC 3601: Lecture 9 ANT (and the sociology of contemporary biotechnology)

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1 SOC 3601: Lecture 9 ANT (and the sociology of contemporary biotechnology)

2 What do we already know about ANT? Based on the work of Bruno Latour, Michel Callon and John Law Callon (1987) provides some definitions... Callon (1987) ➡ “Actor-networks = heterogeneous associations of unstable elements, which influence and re-define each other continuously” ➡ “Actor-Network Theory = new description of the dynamics of society”

3 Involves the study of both, human, and non-human, competences (i.e. how these are distributed): ➡ “Where others see human relations (society) + non human relations (technology), Latour sees only actors exchanging their properties” ➡ “Society = a collective of humans and non-humans” Key terms: ➡ delegation, translation, inscription, programmes of action, collectives,... What do we already know about ANT?

4 What happens in practice: ➡ Callon, M. (1986) Callon, M. (1986) ➡ Latour, B. & Woolgar, S. (1979) Latour, B. & Woolgar, S. (1979) Some new terms: ➡ actant, generalised symmetry,... Exploring ANT in the laboratory: ➡ Collins, H. & Kusch, M. (1998) Collins, H. & Kusch, M. (1998) A diversion... The “Science Wars” What are we going to learn about ANT?

5 Based on the application of 3 key princples Identifies 4 (more or less overlapping)moments in the process of translation ➡ problematisation ➡ interessement ➡ enrolment ➡ mobilisation advantages v. disadvantages N.B. vocabulary of translation Callon (1986): The Sociology of Translation

6 Based on laboratory ethnography which predates the term “Actor- Network Theory” Establishes the foundations of parts of ANT: ➡ no a priori distinction between social and technical ➡ highlights the mobilisation of objects and processes in the social construction of TRF ➡ incorporates the concept of embodiment ➡ erasure of history as the precursor to “black boxing” A seminal study in STS Latour & Woolgar (1979): Laboratory Ethnography

7 What is “generalised symmetry”? ➡ Derived from Bloor’s (1976) symmetry principle, but a critical reaction to its applicationBloor’s (1976) ➡ Callon (1986): “the commitment to explaining conflicting viewpoints in the same terms” (1986: 196) Callon (1986) What does it mean to apply this in practice? ➡ From ANT’s perspective ➡ From a critical perspective Why is it so problematic? A New Vocabulary: Applying the principle of “generalised symmetry”

8 Collins & Kusch (1998): Action MorphicityCollins & Kusch (1998) ➡ Concerns the difference between the types of actions that humans and machines can do ➡ Turns on the observation that machines can never be socialised, therefore they can never carry out actions that refer to social context These issues can be investigated empirically: ➡ Latour (1993) “The Sociology of a Door-opener” Latour (1993) My research: Can actions that humans carry out with reference to social context be replicated by machines? (i.e. can laboratory processes be automated sucessfully?) Responses to this problem: In theory... and in practice

9 My research: ➡ Can actions that humans carry out with reference to social context be replicated by machines? ➡ i.e. can laboratory processes be automated sucessfully? Laboratory observation which focusses on the differences between actions which can be: ➡ A) carried out by humans, and ➡ B) replicated by machines Responses to this problem: In theory... and in practice

10 A Diversion: The “Science Wars”Science Wars

11 A Diversion: The “Science Wars”

12 A Diversion: The “Science Wars”

13 A Diversion: The “Science Wars”

14 A Diversion: The “Science Wars”

15 The when and how ANT can be used “Generalised Symmetry” ➡ What it is ➡ The advantages of this approach ➡ The problems and debates it sparks How generalised symmetry can be explored in practice Aside: Lessons from the “Science Wars” In Summary:

16 Callon, M. (1987). "Society in the Making: The Study of Technology as a Tool for Sociological Analysis", In Bijker et al. (eds) The Social Construction of Technical Systems: New Directions in the Sociology and History of Technology, London: MIT Press. pp Callon, M. (1986). "Some Elements of a Sociology of Translation: Domestication of the Scallops and the Fishermen of St Brieuc Bay", In Law, J. (ed). Power, Action and Belief: A New Sociology of Knowledge, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. pp Latour, B. and Woolgar, S. (1979). Laboratory Life: the Social Construction of Scientific Facts, Los Angeles, USA: Sage. Collins, H. M. and Kusch, M. (1998). The Shape of Actions: What Humans and Machines Can Do, Cambridge, MASS.: MIT Press. References (1)

17 Bloor, D. (1976). Knowledge and Social Imagery, 2nd Edition, Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press Latour, B. (1988). “Mixing Humans and Nonhumans Together: The Sociology of a Door-Closer” Social Problems, Vol 35, No. 3, pp References (2)


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