For this week, I decided to remap my mindmap with colored nodes so as to make the distinct theories stand out more (as compared to the gigantic labyrinth of black nodes I had before). I definitely felt like Joseph Conrad’s Kurtz when I saw many nodes and links I was going to have to move over and color-code if the remapping was to be successful. How would I describe the experience of remapping two months worth of connections? Exhausting, just exhausting. But, it needed to be done, so it was, and hopefully that color scheme will hold out for the rest of the semester.
Anyways, now that I am done mourning the brains cells that have passed from existence while I was trying to follow the threads of past theory experiences, time to talk connections. Ah, but where to start?
First might be to talk about the oddity of one of this week’s addition: the Youtube video. While trying to work my way through the last half of Reassembling the Social, I looked up videos of people discussing ANT and Bruno Latour’s work to give myself a better grounding in the theory. What did I find? A woman talking about ANT but, as she claims, “in plain English.” I actually really enjoyed her video, with her cutout symbols that she would rearrange as she was discussing how ANT rearranges previous claims made by sociologists. Her video is a step towards a fuller understanding of the theory, and as I move through Case Study #2, I hope to put her explanation in discourse with Latour and others talking about him.
Now, on to the nodes I made from Latour’s actual work:
1) “the question of the social emerges when the ties in which one is entangled begin to unravel, the social is further detected through the surprising movements from one association to the next; those movements can either be suspended or resumed; when they are prematurely suspended, the social as normally constructed is bound together with already accepted participants called ‘social actors’ who are members of a ‘society’; when the movement toward collection is resumed, it traces the social as associations through many non-social entities which might become participants later; if pursued systematically, this tracking may end up in a shared definition of a common world, what I have called a collective; but if there are no procedures to render it common, it may fail to be assembled; and, lastly, sociology is best defined as the discipline where participants explicitly engage in the reassembling of the collective” (Latour 247),
and 2) Construction: “Moreover, to say that science, too, was constructed gave the same thrill as with all other ‘makings of’: we went back stage, we learned about the skills of practitioners; we saw innovations come into being; we felt how risky it was; and we witnessed the puzzling merger of human activities and non-human entities. By watching the fabulous film that our colleagues the historians of science were shooting for us, we could attend, frame after frame, to the most incredible spectacle: truth being slowly achieved in breathtaking episodes without being sure of the result” (Latour 90).
I really liked both of these quotes as they helped to complete the image of social ties and construction, which then fanned out to help me gain a greater understanding of how Latour wanted ANT to be different from the methods Sociology had been using up to that point (and even after?). The idea that the participants or actors (human or non-human) have to be actively involved in order to define and redefine the groups that will then, on a much larger scale, define and redefine networks, businesses, cultural groups, societies, and civilizations reminds me a lot of Foucault’s work in the sense that history is not one fluid, continuous narrative, but series of narratives threaded together, looping back on one another, getting lost and reemerging, seemingly snapping off at their peak. This sense of how even the smallest action is driving towards creation, maintenance, or destruction of a group allows me to see how disruptions at a greater level actually operate, instead of being an abstract idea.
The one connection I was really excited to make this week was actually in regards to Foucault, who I find Latour to be very reminiscent. When Latour is discussing, how objects that people have stored away and seemingly forgotten are never completely out of reach: “when objects have receded into the background for good, it is always possible–but more difficult–to bring them back to light by using archives, documents, memoirs, museum collections, etc., to artificially produce, through historians’ accounts, the state of crisis in which machines, devices, and implements were born…the history of technology should have forever subverted the ways in which social and cultural histories are narrated” (Latour 81). It made me think of Foucault’s statement that, “I reject a uniform model of temporalization, in order to describe, for each discursive practice, its rules of accumulation, exclusion, reactivation, its own forms of derivation, and its specific modes of connexion over various successions” (Foucault 200). This “reactivation” he mentions for “each discursive practice,” and the archive that appears later in The Archaeology of Knowledge fit with this idea of technology as active agents in Latour’s account disrupting traditional methods of “the ways in which social and cultural histories are narrated.”
Music to Make Me Smile: