The social science theory Actor-Network Theory (ANT) was developed by Bruno Latour in the 1980s. It looks at the relationship between subjects and objects, and how they form, sustain, and compete. People, animals, objects, and everything around us are all actors in a endless network, and each of those actors/actants may be “enrolled” depending on the situation. There is a deep interdependency between the social, technological, and natural so any given scenario can not be viewed in a vacuum. Essentially, everything is tied to everything else.
Admittedly, Latour lost me at several parts of this speech at a dinner seminar, but the overall perspective makes sense. A simple act to illustrate: the coffee I had this morning was influenced by the time I got up, the coffee shop options nearby, the company I was with, the menu design, the Sunday special, the barista, the concept of fairtrade, the expectation of consistency, previous experiences there, etc. All of these tangible and intangible elements are actors engaged in a network.
ANT might be a useful lens to help us understand how our micro actions are affecting global movements. The decisions we make, the conversations we have, the things we consume, the people we advocate for – every element plays a role in influencing our society and universe. (On this note, I’ll leave you with this short video on how our planet get conquered by humans in 200 years.)
I haven’t dove too deeply into criticisms of ANT, but there is writing about how non-humans can not be agents, assumptions of equality while ignoring existing power structures, and a good point raised in class – it would be virtually impossible to studying anything at all if we can’t section off a digestible chunk!