When ANT met Cultural Techniques: Re-engaging with Network Cultures

Logo Making and Doing Transformations Amsterdam 2024ANT was a blast when it reached Media Studies. Its methodology, however, was based on a mediating “Connectivity of Things” that could be mobilized but hardly historicized. So how do we re-engage with research on networks as cultural technique to create joint future(s) of STS and Media Studies?

This is part of a panel at this year’s EASST-4S Conference:
What Is The Past And Future Of Actor-network Theory?
Traditional Open Panel P146
Amsterdam: Making and Doing Transformations
Friday 19 July, 14:00-15:30, 16:00-17:30

Actor-network theory heuristics and methodology have traveled quite a bit outside of STS. Media Studies, in its differing styles of thought, is a case in point. Within my contribution, I am going to contextualize a still recent constellation between ANT and German Media Studies. How did crucial elements of the French anthropology of technology (Marcel Mauss, André Leroi-Gourhan, Georges Haudricourt, Gilbert Simondon) become a common ground for both actor-network theory and the Germanophone research on cultural techniques? What can be learnt for future STS network methodologies from intertwining ANT with Media Studies of cultural techniques?

From the vantage point of cultural techniques, ANT might have lacked a critical, historicizing perspective on its own foundations and mode of operation. It generalized Leroi-Gourhan’s operational chains into sociotechnical networks. Yet programmatic initiatives for historicizing and criticizing networks were not wanting—for instance, Michel Serres’s ”History of Scientific Thought” or Bruno Latour’s ”We Have Never Been Modern.” But for ANT, everything that could be described analytically as a network (or “worknet”) qualified as an actual network. Claims were bolstered by the self-evidence of the lifeworld (and academic practice) of the 1980s and 1990s. ANT could only come about because of the flourishing sociotechnical networks of the day. In contrast, subsequent, more historically oriented studies of cultural techniques—and of the history of infrastructure and science, technology, and society—demonstrate reserve by stressing the material grounding of networks, their metonymic character, situatedness, and specificity. Networks have genealogies within a “Connectivity of Things,” but they are not themselves genealogies.

Agre After Techno-Utopianism

Workshop Call for Papers
Agre After Techno-Utopianism
1-2 September 2022 (University of Siegen, Germany: Media of Cooperation)
In person/hybrid

It is hard to imagine digital culture without the work of Philip E. Agre. His description of the mutual dynamics of digital technology and ideology, so-called ‘grammars of action’ (Agre 1994), and the appeal for a critical technical practice (Agre 1997) have inspired scholars across media studies, HCI, and digital art and design for over 30 years. This workshop, ‘Agre After Techno-Utopianism’, seeks to evaluate his contribution to the study of technology, ideology, critique, and practice since the ‘techno-utopia’ of the early internet era ended, and more dystopic energies emerged. „Agre After Techno-Utopianism“ weiterlesen

The Practice Turn in Media Studies

Cover Connect and Divide The Practice Turn in Media Studies


“Connect and Divide” took a long time to be published, but now the book is finally here. Bringing practice theory/praxeology and media studies together seems like an endeavour that needs time for deliberation. My own contribution “How to Coordinate Digital Accounting? Infrastructuring Payment and Credit with the Eurocard” is a business history from the lost 1970s/1980s social world of an European credit card called the Eurocard. It focuses on practices of coordination, and combines these with a framework of thinking about practices of delegation, and registration/identification.

Within the volume’s long production time, the reproduction of images somehow took a strange trajectory. This is why I republish them in this blog post for your viewing and reading pleasure. And do not forget to check out the other excellent contributations to this publication of the German Research Foundation’s third Media Studies symposium! It is also the first time that this has been a transatlantic event. I am very grateful to have been a part of it. „The Practice Turn in Media Studies“ weiterlesen