just (describe) it

Someone in our AoIR panel on Friday asked me if I was ‘using’ Bruno Latour and/or ANT, and I more or less denied it, probably misinterpreting the question slightly, under the influence of adrenaline. Anyway, afterwards I realised that I was far too flippant in my response. Because of course, at least implicitly I kind of am ‘using’ it.

Quite by accident, I ran across this Dialogue on ANT by Latour soon after having the thudding three-fold realisation that:

1. the reason my word count isn’t screaming along as fast as I know it could be is that I’m being far too parsimonious in regard to description;

2. I should avoid the endless roadblocks I create for myself by ‘reconceptualising’, at least for the moment, and just write my way through all the stuff of my case studies; and

3. that’s how I’ve finished everything else I’ve ever finished writing.

Since that head-slapping thunderbolt hit, everything’s going smoothly again. Perhaps the infamous word count picometer may even return soon.

So, anyway, here’s Latour in Socratic Professor mode:

Student — May I politely remark that, for all your exceedingly subtle philosophy of science, you have yet to tell me how to write one…
Professor — You were so eager to add frames, context, structure, to your ‘mere descriptions’, how would you have listened to me?
S — But what’s the difference between a good and a bad ANT text?
P — Now, that’s a good question!
S — At last?
P — At last! Answer: The same as between a good and a bad laboratory. No more, no less.
S — Well, okay, um, thanks… It was nice of you to talk to me. But I think after all, instead of ANT… I was thinking of using Luhmann’s system theory as an underlying framework— that seems to hold a lot of promise, autopoiesis and all that. Or maybe I will use a bit of both.
P — …
S — Don’t you like Luhmann?
P — I would leave aside all ‘underlying frameworks’, if I were you.
S — But, your sort of ‘science’, it seems to me, means breaking all the rules of social science training.
P — I prefer to break them and follow my actors.

3 thoughts to “just (describe) it”

  1. Hi, I’ve used ANT as a theory and methodology in my research on webfilms. I’ve submitted and my VIVA is on the 18th Dec! Like you, I’m interested in issues of convergence and in fact that’s what I’m planning to research (convergence of video games and online video) after my PhD. My blog is not really academic though but I thought I give you a shout 🙂

    good luck with your research!

  2. hi lenina, thanks for saying hello–i’m really interested in your phd! What did you end up saying about webfilms, if I can be so cruel as to make the horrific demand that you “summarise your phd in one sentence”?

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