Publication Details

Garrety, K. (2014). Actor Network Theory. In H. Hasan (Eds.), Being Practical with Theory: A Window into Business Research (pp. 15-19). Wollongong, Australia: THEORI. http://eurekaconnection.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/p-15-19-actor-network-theory-theori-ebook_finaljan2014-v3.pdf

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Actor-Network Theory (ANT) emerged from science and technology studies, though it was inspired by grounded theory and semiotics. In the 1970s, Bruno Latour (a French anthropologist and social scientist) and Steve Woolgar (a British sociologist) undertook ethnographic field work at the Salk Institute in California. This research was inspired by grounded theory and Latour and Woolgar approached their study of work in the endocrinology laboratory as if they were anthropologists observing a hitherto unknown and strange set of practices. In other words, they did not fit their observations into any preconceived notions of scientific method, or how science 'should' be done. The resulting, highly influential book Laboratory Life: The Social Construction of Scientific Facts(1979, re-released in 1986 with additional commentary) gave a detailed account of the everyday activities of scientists. Latour and Woolgar highlighted the importance of material objects in the construction of scientific facts - rats, mice, machines, chemicals, traces of paper coming out of machines (raw data) and documents and drawings that were eventually transformed into journal articles. The latter were particularly prized, and much effort went into persuading readers that the claims in articles represented 'facts' about nature. The material objects deployed and constructed in the lab (graphs, tables of results, pictures) were key elements in this persuasion. As such, they were scientists' allies - things they could point to as 'proof' if anyone should dare question the validity of their claims.

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