Actor-Network Theory in Plain English
Relevant extracts from Knox, J. K. (2014).
Perspectives on technology
“Hamilton and Friesen suggest that educational research is dominated by instrumentalist or essentialist perspectives, the former viewing technology as the transparent means to accomplishing educational aims, and the latter assuming innate and absolute properties (2013). These determinist perspectives maintain a separation between human beings and technology that posit either as the driving force that regulates and controls the other. Drawing from Dahlberg (2004), Kanuka suggests that educationalists tend to adopt one of three positions: ‘uses determinism’ involving the view that technology is a transparent tool for the realisation of educational aims (aligning with instrumentalism); ‘technological determinism’ concerning the effects of technology on individuals and society (aligning with essentialism); and ‘social determinism’ which perceives societal contexts to drive changes and uses of technology (2008)”
“I suggest that both behaviourism and connectivism have tended to adopt determinist views: either perceiving technology to influence preferred conduct and supress undesired behaviour (Kanuka 2008), or to be the invisible means to achieving educational aims (Hamilton and Friesen 2013), in this case the formation of connections with other participants in the form of a Personal Learning Network (Siemens 2010, Kop et al. 2011).”
“I suggest that the fundamental difference hailed by sociomaterial theory is a shift away from the identification of determining factors and towards a consideration of what is produced through co-constitutive relations (Fenwick et al. 2011). Rather than beginning with the foundational categories of ‘technology’, ‘society’ or the ‘user’, the most radical sociomaterial approach contends that ‘[a]ll things – human and non-human, hybrids and parts, knowledge and systems – emerge as effects of connections and activity’ (Fenwick et al. 2011, p3 emphasis original). In other words, a clear determinist position is impossible because any object, concept, person or thing is necessarily determined by other relations. More generally, the sociomaterial signals a range of 46 © ISSN: 2255-1514 Campus Virtuales, 01, III, 2014 approaches that foreground the relationships and entanglements between what is considered social and human, and what is thought to be material and non-human”
Knox, J. K. (2014). Active algorithms: sociomaterial spaces in the E-learning and Digital Cultures MOOC. Campus Virtuales, 3(1): 42-55.