Actor-network theory is practical pragmatism

Extending my post from a couple of days ago, “ANT = Practical pragmatism”:

When you are temperamentally theoretical, it is tempting to stop at theorizing about practice, and never to practice anything but theorizing.

When pragmatism begins to apply its insights to practice — that is, to a study specific situation with an aim to understand it in pragmatic terms (which will always turn up unexpected theoretical problems which must be resolved) — pragmatism becomes Actor-network theory.

Actor-network theory is practical pragmatism.


As an experience researcher and strategist, this passage from Latour is galvanizing, because it articulates what I do, and what I’ve had great difficulty communicating to clients and colleagues who still live in an essentially objective world inhabited by opinionated, emotional and behaving subjects:

Even once reality has fully set in, the question of its unity is still pending. The common world has still to be collected and composed. As we shall see at the end of this book, this is where the social sciences may regain the political relevance that they seem to have lost by abandoning the ether of the social and the automated use of the critical repertoire that it allowed.

That idea of “collecting and composing” a shared understanding of the world is what I’ve called synesis. I believe this involves a mode of thinking which goes beyond the algorithmic ideal of business thought into the specifically philosophical mode of intuitive thinking, dialectic.

Then things can be taken even further by modifying the network through the act of design. Maybe this is the best definition of design: intentional modification of actor-networks?



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