Feb 8th Reading Response –Bruno Latour (Actor-Network Theory)

Posted: February 6, 2012 by jonathansantosdts403diasporiclivesofobjects in Feb 8

This reading, even though extremely difficult to read and comprehend at first was quite informative as it taught me how to truly examine and think about the process behind humans and objects interacting within society. Through providing the reader with numerous examples the author exposed how objects are categorized solely on social links and ties. By going into specific detail on the importance of interaction, the author stressed the importance of basic social skills. Through presenting the reader with this actor-network theory the author made it evident that people can learn allot about each other by examining how animals and people construct, repair and or destroy their home societies. What became evident to me through these examples was that within this theory, there was no distinction between the social, natural and or technological, everything was connected and constantly working together.

What I found as a reader to be very interesting was how the author examined both sides of the argument whereas most authors commonly examine and argue in favour of one side. Even though it was a tough read I think that the author did a great job of getting his point across effectively as he was able to provide simple and basic examples that the average reader could comprehend. For example I think that by using the example of the two drivers, the author was able to explain that people interact with objects due to both moral and ethical reasons in order to avoid a nasty situation. Most of all what I found to be the most helpful was how the author used basic examples to get his point across. As an art-sci student I found his examples to be very helpful and easy to understand.

This theory in my opinion is indeed a unique approach to examining social theory. Before studying and examining this theory I never thought of understanding the processes of innovation and knowledge creation in science and technology. Now I am intrigued. It is truly exciting and fascinating material.


(1)   Is this theory a-moral? Are moral and political positions possible?

(2)   Research on this theory has revealed that it is mostly descriptive and fails to provide explanations to social processes. What do you think?

  1. jonathansantosdts403diasporiclivesofobjects,

    I found the author’s approach to the argument very interesting as well, especially the use of examples in his article like the speedbump. With regards to your second question, I think that the chapter is a nice mix of description and concrete examples and I think both of those really allow him to present an interesting approach to examining social theory. I like Latour’s use of language in this chapter, especially when he explains how sociologists often attribute a ‘steely’ quality to their theories, but often overlook the acual ‘steel’ matter (i.e. objects) in their analysis of social ties. I think he is aware of being too descriptive in his work, and that is why he is very conscious to use empirical examples like the speedbump or the supermarket etc.

  2. tupakkat says:

    Latour’s descriptiveness may provide a good starting point or prerequisite for a sociological explanation. In so far I would question -like I did in my response- why he attempts to create a whole “new sociology” rather than enhancing the existing one.
    Definitely is sorting out existing networks between all possible actors a good and necessary springboard for any theory, maybe one that most sociologists so far have overlooked. But it cannot replace the explanations to social processes.
    It is like cooking: rather than starting by wildly throwing all kinds of unprepared things into a pot and stirring, it surely makes sense to wash and cut all the ingredients, measure the spices, lay out all the tools that are to be used, preheat the oven etc. But one cannot leave it with that. In the end you still have to cook the food in order to get your dish.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s