Monday, April 03, 2017

Actor-Networking with dead people.

Invoking a dead language I draw on the past to give meaning to where we are now,  nanos gigantum humeris insidentes.  While  attributed to Bernard of Chartres of the 12th century, the more familiar expression provided in English comes from a 1676 letter of Isaac Newton:

If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.
Acknowledgement is then given to those on whose shoulders we have stood ; those who inform our gaze, and through whose learning, we might begin to learn even more.

Channelling knowledge drawn from a past, from those spatially and temporally challenged, is not new. Stevenson (2007) argues:
[in] the postmodern period....Traditional literature has been found to have been written by "dead white males" to serve the ideological aims of a conservative and repressive Anglo hegemony....disguised in literature and other discourses as positive ideals and objective truths – but they slant our sense of reality in favor of power and privilege. (pp. 9-10)

Accepting new research is situated on a body of knowledge that informs it is one aspect of this. Informing futures from current times is not a new phenomenon and despite the disparagement evident, in the  example above, a Euro-centric wisdom of patriachs is not the only wisdom that might be accessed.

There are alternate realities that might be explored:
 Literally a paving one's path to heaven by looking after the dead.
A reminder then that we live in differing realities.

Another example is the very recently passed legislation that has positioned the Whanganui river in New Zealand as having personhood status.
An ingenious approach consistent with the people of this place to grant legal rights to a living ancestor. This spiritual ancestor is not to be insulted by being placed under human control. Instead there is open acknowledgement of the one with the other.:
 "I am the river, and the river is me"

In actor-network theorizing,  the literature reviewed is not only providing a body of knowledge that provides a space on which to stand, or to speak from, enhancing perhaps on a current body of knowledge by "filling a gap" the literature is an actor that is also open to interrogation. Worth considering is how the literature maintains a status quo.

In the telling of an actor-networked account, the actors are human and otherwise,  and the human ones might be dead or alive. In addition there is no necessary seperation of what was that informs what is, the writer is implicated through and through.
As said by Mulcahy(1999),
Over the course of these accounts, I came to understand that the tale I was telling of my network was complicit with the tale it was telling of itself.

Where 'I' am in a study as Latour describes it, is situated and positioned.
" I insert my gesture in a ‘garland of time’ as Michel Serres (1995) has put it, which allows me to insert myself in a variety of temporalities or time differentials." (Latour, 2002).

The"gathering garlands in time"  metaphor used by Latour and attributed to Serres, relates to how networking is not just about geographically, spatially positioned networks. We have tendency to attend to what is geographically and spatially close. However, networks have no top nor bottom, left or right, no close or distant, big or small, but that thinking makes it so.
A network study needs then to be recognised as a moment, or clotting in time as Helen Verran has suggested:

'Given spacetime framed context' and 'clotted/clotting context' are metaphysically distinct, juxtaposing them recognises that the seemingly innocuous and helpful work of contextualising is a form of ontic politics. My aim here is not to promote one form over the other; the claim is that the stories express alternative forms of empiricism and that we need both forms to be explicitly held in tension.

Time; a necessary consideration then.

It is all too easy to criticise with the wisdom of hindsight, but what if instead we look at something in terms of how it was in its time,  when an idea is in its moment, the hopes inspired... a

"Always assume people are right, even if you have to stretch the point a bit. A simple rule, my dear pupil when you're studying a project. You put yourself at the peak of enthusiasm, at the apex, the point when the thing is irresistible. " ( Latour, 1996, p. 36).

Latour, Bruno. (1996). Aramis: Or the love of technology (C. Porter, Trans.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Latour, Bruno. (2002). Morality and technology. The end of the means. Theory, Culture and Society, 19(5/6), 247–260. doi: 10.1177/026327602761899246
Mulcahy, D. (1999). (Actor-Net) Working bodies and representations: Tales from a training field. Science, Technology and Human Values, 24(1), 80-104. Retrieved from
Stevenson, J. (2007) The complete idiot's guide to english literature. Alpha Books

Verran, H. (2007). Telling a story of a tender bids hearing and considering researcher responsibility. Paper presented at the Lancaster University STS Students-University of Melbourne Education ANT group. Video-conference 

Please dont get picky about the fonts, the grammar, the incomplete thoughts. Its a blog; a space for raw thoughts and playful writing.

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