Essay: Strengths and Weaknesses of Action Network Theory

By | April 27, 2011

Sample Essay

The use of Actor-Network Theory network offers several advantages in its use. First the Actor-Network Theory presents a powerful qualitative research framework to the researchers who are attempting to describe how technology and society are linked together (Tatnall & Gilding, 1999). Furthermore, since it does not makes a differentiation between types of actors, which can be human or non-humans, Actor-Network Theory successfully escapes essentialism as well as lack of heterogeneity, which are present in other social theory (Tatnall & Gilding, 1999). Furthermore, the concept of networks allows the researchers to get rid of proximity consideration, which may cause doubts if objects with remote connections are analyzed. Furthermore, the notion of network in Actor-Network Theory also removes the concept of inside and outside. This makes the study of social artifacts much easier (Latour, 1997).

On the other hand, several weaknesses of Actor Network theories have been highlighted in the literature as well. For example, the use of concepts such as actors and network has been criticized as it may lead a researcher to confusion about which actor to “follow” as there may be multiple actors within any given network (Cressman, 2009). Furthermore, the choice of selecting the actor is left upon the researcher who may make a wrong judgment. The terminology is often confusing and in many work of literature an Actor-Network is taken to be an equivalent of its conventional sociological or technical concept (Cressman, 2009). Furthermore, Actor-Network Theory argues for the equivalency of all actors within a network, hence does not take into account any pre-existing structure (Doolin & Lowe, 2002). Furthermore, Actor-Network Theory has also been criticized for failing to provide no means to differentiate between humans and non humans actors. In addition since each network is influenced by other network in an Actor-Network, it is quite difficult to explain the complexity of the network completely (Ziemkendorf, 2008).

A major advantage of using Social Construction of Technology theory is that it allows researchers to look at the dynamic development of the technology without considering technological determinism (Vos, 2004). Thus a success or failure of a technology can be better explained by using Social Construction of Technology as it attempts to provide sociological explanation to technology as well. However, Social Construction of Technology has been criticized in the literature as well. For example, it has been pointed out that though Social Construction of Technology relies of the theory of existence of social groups in a society, no specific method has been specified to determine that (Klein & Kleinman, 2002). Instead, Bijker, who is one of the author of Social Construction of Technology, has suggested an approach similar to “follow the actors” approach in Actor-Network theory which presents the same problem of asking the researcher to make a judgment call (Klein & Kleinman,

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