Actor-Network Theory, as a theoretical and methodological approach, is particularly insightful when applied to domains of social activity that are in flux, thus making it particularly useful for ethnographic research about unsettled socio-technical systems. Drawing from field research conducted over the last decade, this paper presents two empirical cases that reveal how ANT enables researchers to trace the associations that form the socio-technical objects of political and journalistic practice. We focus on "black-boxed" technical objects, exploring two distinct, yet complementary, analytical moments that emerged during our respective fieldwork. First, we detail the work that an electoral map performs in stabilizing networks of political representation and creating new capacities to act. We then go inside a journalistic organization to reveal a moment of breakdown when the black box of a content management system unravels and fails to do what it is seemingly supposed to do, throwing news production into a tenuous state. The paper concludes by interrogating our empirical findings through the lens of cultural practices, highlighting a few ways sociologists might need to supplement ANT-analysis with a more robust understanding of culture and symbolic belief systems.

Black boxes as capacities for and constraints on action: electoral politics, journalism, and devices of representation / C. Anderson, D. Kreiss. - In: QUALITATIVE SOCIOLOGY. - ISSN 0162-0436. - 36:4(2013 Dec), pp. 365-382. [10.1007/s11133-013-9258-4]

Black boxes as capacities for and constraints on action: electoral politics, journalism, and devices of representation

C. Anderson
Primo
;
2013

Abstract

Actor-Network Theory, as a theoretical and methodological approach, is particularly insightful when applied to domains of social activity that are in flux, thus making it particularly useful for ethnographic research about unsettled socio-technical systems. Drawing from field research conducted over the last decade, this paper presents two empirical cases that reveal how ANT enables researchers to trace the associations that form the socio-technical objects of political and journalistic practice. We focus on "black-boxed" technical objects, exploring two distinct, yet complementary, analytical moments that emerged during our respective fieldwork. First, we detail the work that an electoral map performs in stabilizing networks of political representation and creating new capacities to act. We then go inside a journalistic organization to reveal a moment of breakdown when the black box of a content management system unravels and fails to do what it is seemingly supposed to do, throwing news production into a tenuous state. The paper concludes by interrogating our empirical findings through the lens of cultural practices, highlighting a few ways sociologists might need to supplement ANT-analysis with a more robust understanding of culture and symbolic belief systems.
actor-network theory; black-boxes; campaigns; communications; ethnography; journalism; politics; social theory; technology
Settore SPS/08 - Sociologia dei Processi Culturali e Comunicativi
dic-2013
Article (author)
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/2434/954679
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