Structured quite literally in a conversational tone, Latour explores reassembling the social by addressing his ideology of the Actor-Network Theory (ANT). After reading the set text and the squabble it replicated (the curious-yet-demanding student, the passive-yet-challenging professor), a passage stuck out to me that I felt articulated the best of what we (or more so, I) can take from it.
“P: Surely you’d agree that drawing with a pencil is not the same thing as drawing the shape of a pencil. It’s the same with this ambiguous word: network. With Actor-Network you may describe something that doesn’t at all look like a network—an individual state of mind, a piece of machinery, a fictional character; conversely, you may describe a network—subways, sewages, telephones—which is not all drawn in an ‘Actor-Networky’ way. You are simply confusing the object with the method. ANT is a method, and mostly a negative one at that; it says nothing about the shape of what is being described with it.”
And just like that we are being served on a silver platter what Adrian has been repeating all this semester, and of course, what we have been asking ourselves over and over. How do we describe things as things and why in the nature of using methods like ANT do we limit our reflexive capacity and conversely, our understanding? Latour notes that description is not an easy practice and it is in this event that we get tied down by associations and generalisations.
You can be damn sure he’s correct about these approaches having limitations, but of course, like all theories, this also doesn’t mean that these limitations are negative, but merely just another way to think about it. And by ‘it’ I mean the existence of all, but just quietly.