Monday, March 24, 2008

Semiotic relational logic/s

A little bit of writing in the style of John Law helps me to explore the language of ANT and to see similarities as well as differences between theorists. If nothing else, it makes my reading of the works of these giants a little more palatable :)

This study displays the ingredients of actor-network theory. There is semiotic relationality (it’s a network whose elements define and shape one another.)
There are artefacts of philosophy and policy, influence of juggernaughts in telecommunications, there is also goodwill of a charitable nature which makes the potential possible, by donating cash and hardware and time. There are actors in the form of mobile phones, a palm pilot, counsellors and counsellees. The heterogeneity can be pointed to (there are different kinds of actors, human and otherwise), and materiality (stuff there is a-plenty, not just 'the social' but contracts, money, technical equipment, text artefacts...)
There is an insistence on process and its precariousness (all elements need to play their part moment by moment or it all comes unstuck; without ongoing funding, without ongoing commitment, without ongoing advertising, without ongoing development of skills, without sunshine...)
There is attention to power as an effect (it is a function of network configuration and in particular the creation of immutable mobiles) (In another article Law cites Bruno Latour - the immutable mobile is a network of elements that holds its shape as it moves), to space and to scale (how it is that networks extend themselves and translate distant actors). Law attests that it is new to actor-network theory to acknowledge an interest in large scale political history. Here I see ontological politics: for without a commitment to voice, this cannot be sustained. Without ongoing goodwill from a major sponsor and such activities as Coca cola in the park the financial costs to Youthline would be too burdensome, without goodwill there is political precariousness.... There is the deliberate making and shaping of 'the brick mother' (tangible knowledge of support services for young people, making Youthline a known entity that's 'always there'.)
(I am glad that my friend Sue pointed me back to Law on material semiotics for I find Latour all to easily denies the political.)
And, crucially, it is a study of how the network works; how it holds together; how it is shaped and shaping; how it configures that which is central and peripheral; in short: how newness and differences in old practices are generated in semiotic relational logic/s. (The 's' is important to me; a logic may presume a singular entity, while I suspect there are many logics occurring simultaneously in the form of concurrent performances as per Annmare Mol's the body multiple.)

If I see at all, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants...

No comments:

Post a Comment