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 â€” May I politely remark that, for all your exceedingly subtle philosophy of science, you have yet to tell me how to write one…
Professor â€” You were so eager to add frames, context, structure, to your â€˜mere descriptionsâ€™, how would you have listened to me?
S â€” But whatâ€™s the difference between a good and a bad ANT text?
P â€” Now, thatâ€™s a good question!
S â€” At last?
P â€” At last! Answer: The same as between a good and a bad laboratory. No more, no less.
S â€” Well, okay, um, thanksâ€¦ It was nice of you to talk to me. But I think after all, instead of ANTâ€¦ I was thinking of using Luhmannâ€™s system theory as an underlying frameworkâ€” that seems to hold a lot of promise, autopoiesis and all that. Or maybe I will use a bit of both.
P â€” â€¦
S â€” Donâ€™t you like Luhmann?
P â€” I would leave aside all â€˜underlying frameworksâ€™, if I were you.
S â€” But, your sort of â€˜scienceâ€™, it seems to me, means breaking all the rules of social science training.
P â€” I prefer to break them and follow my actors.