Actor-Network Theory in Plain English

Actor-Network Theory in Plain English
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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).”

Sociomaterial Theory

“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.

Comments on Nigel’s EDC Lifestream Blog

Good to see some appropriate and useful literature referenced here Nigel. I think you’re right to highlight and reflect upon the (often difficult and nuanced) aspects of ethnography, including the dilemmas of ‘insidership’ , and we’ve only really scratched the surface with the block 2 task. The Research Methods course, later in the programme, will be a good opportunity to open up these issues again.

Week 7 ends up being rather busy, and I think many other have also focused on commenting on the micro-ethnographies – not a bad way to round up a block on community cultures!

It might be useful to continue some of your thinking about the observation of community as we enter block 3 and begin to uncover some of the algorithms at work on the web. While the researcher has ‘prejudices and biases’ (De Chesnay 2015) as you suggest, we might find that there are other ‘agencies’ having a say in what we are able to see.

from Comments for Nigel’s EDC blog