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The Actor Network Theory (ANT)

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  1. The Actor Network Theory (ANT) It’s a distinctive approach to social theory and research which originated in the field of science studies. Also known as the sociology of translation or enrolment theory.

  2. The term "Actor network theory" was devised by Michel Callon in 1982. (Latour, 2004; Latour & Woolgar, 1986; Law J., 2007),. An actor network is “the act linked together with all of its influencing factors in building a network” (Suchman, 1987; Hanseth and Monteiro, 1998).

  3. Actor-network theory declares that the world is full of hybrid entities (Latour 1993) containing both human and non-human elements, and was developed to analyze situations where separation of these elements is difficult (Callon 1997 :3). • For instance, which part of a piece of software is just an inanimate object and which the result of human interactions.

  4. The actors usually consist of humans and non-humans; some prefer to call the human actors as actants and the non human actors simply as actors. Latour (1991) describes the non-human actors, as those that offer the possibility of holding society together as a durable whole.

  5. In this network it is possible to study both people and technologies using the same tools. ANT’s postulation that the social and technological should be studied on an equal footing is most productive when applied to cases in which the social and technological are embedded in each other (e.g. Konza City). ANT is a theoretical framework used in social studies of technology to explain the way technological artifacts are constructed in society.

  6. One of the significant advantages of ANT in relation to alternative approaches to understanding technology-rich programs is that it treats both people and technological artifacts symmetrically and thus can expose relationships and contexts which are more difficult to detect using other approaches (Tatnall & Gilding, 1999; Doolin & Lowe, 2002). Although it is best known for its controversial insistence on the agency of nonhumans, ANT is also associated with forceful critiques of conventional and critical sociology.

  7. For instance, we might start with interaction and assume that interaction is all that there is. Then we might ask how some kinds of interactions more or less succeed in stabilising and reproducing themselves: how it is that they overcome resistance and seem to become "macrosocial"; how it is that they seem to generate the effects such power, fame, size, scope or organisation with which we are all familiar.

  8. ANT is based upon three principles: agnosticism, generalized symmetry and free association • (Callon 1986b). • Agnosticism, means that analytical impartiality is • demanded towards all the actors involved in the project under consideration, whether they be • human or non-human. • Generalised symmetry offers to explain the conflicting viewpoints of different actors in the same terms by use of an abstract and neutral vocabulary that works the same way for human and non-human actors.

  9. Lastly, the principle of free association requires the elimination and abandonment of all distinctions between the technological or natural, and the social (Callon 1986b; Singleton and Michael 1993). This means that it maps relations that are simultaneously material (between things) and 'semiotic' (between concepts). It assumes that many relations are both material and 'semiotic' (for instance, the interactions in a bank involve both people and their ideas, and technologies. Together these form a single network).

  10. ANT tries to explain how material-semiotic networks come together to act as a whole, e.g. a bank is both a network and an actor that hangs together, and for certain purposes acts as a single entity. As a part of this it may look at explicit strategies for relating different elements together into a network so that they form an apparently coherent whole. Actor Network Theory is a social–technical concept that concerns itself with the alignment of the interests/needs of the actors, usually involving social negotiations in a social network.

  11. ANT provides a language to describe how, where and to which extent technology influences human behavior and vice versa. It is heterogeneous, meaning that there is an open-ended array of things that need to be aligned including work-routines, incentive structures, training, information systems modules and organizational roles (Monteiro 2000). Inscription and Translation Two concepts from Actor Network Theory are of particular relevance: Inscription and Translation. The example of a hotel manager

  12. STRENGTHS ANT shares fundamental principles with other qualitative approaches, and it’s useful in handling complexity without simply filtering it out. Actor-network theory has been used to investigate the success of a number of technological innovations and, in particular, to describe a number of heroic failures.

  13. Applications of ANT in Kenya Examples of Actor Network applications in Kenya: they are many applications that make use of this theory namely the invention of mobile technology. This can be seen by use of mpesa, m-banking and e-banking which was an inception of both KCB and Standard Chartered banks Another example is in the usage of traffic lights The other application is through the use of Kenya Open Data Initiative which was meant to bring together the government to the people by making information available to its people. This was to be made available by use of E-government through a Portal. The project has hit a dead end with organization’s refusal to release information to be uploaded to the general public

  14. Limitation of the theory Actor network theory does not distinguish between the social and technological and sees properties as network effects rather than innate characteristics of an entity.

  15. REFERENCES AN ACTOR-NETWORK THEORY (ANT) APPROACH TO TURKISH EGOVERNMENT GATEWAY INITIATIVE Dr. D. Selcen O. AykacOzyeginUniversity/Post-Doc Research Fellow KusbakisiCd. No: 2 Uskudar, Istanbul TURKEY John Law, ‘Notes on the Theory of the Actor Network: Ordering, Strategy and Heterogeneity‘, published by the Centre for Science Studies, Lancaster University, Lancaster LA1 4YN, at An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory Bruno Latour 1 Callon, M., & Law, J. (1997, Spring).