Analysis of The Actor Network Theory
ANALYSIS OF THE ACTOR NETWORK THEORY
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Analysis of the Actor Network Theory
The ongoing development in the information systems has facilitated the increased use of the actor-network theory. This theory was conceived by Bruno Latour, Michel Callon and John Law between the year 1978 and 1982 (Hooper 2012). According to (Latour 2005) the said theory whose origin is comprised of the field of sociology and anthropology makes everything to be considered as entities. This is done by terming all things as actors or actants (Munro 2009). Whatever makes this theory to be relevant in the information systems field is that does not approve of the existence of any difference between human and non-human institutions at an ontological level (Farias & bender 2012). The preceding statement raises concerns of its applicability as an information system is a field that is well known for its coordination amongst humans and technologies. This theory approves the fact that non-human actors are crucial as far as concerned, and they are not neutral as well as controlled by human actors (Law 2009). Following this, the theory further warns a misconception that non-human actors are more essential than human actors (Munro 2009). This paper seeks to carry out an analysis of ‘Volunteers Aid Pioneering Edsac Computer Rebuild’ and ‘Estonia’s seeking security in computing cloud’ news stories using Actor Network Theory.
Computing News Stories
In ‘Volunteers Aid Pioneering’ story (BBC News 2015), old hardware is being brought back to usage in some work-places that are well organized. A group of veteran engineers is working hard towards assisting in the recreation of the pioneering Edsac Computer. This computer was first designed to ran by Sir Maurice Wilkes in 1949 for purposes of serving scientists in Cambridge University. The developed computer became so useful regarding provision of a tool for crunching numbers in a quicker way as compared to the ordinary performance. The importance of the said computer is illustrated by the confirmation of James Barr, who states that the problems that the computer solved were not practical when they initially used hand based calculation methods. BBC (2015) reports that the design for Edsac has been lost to a large extent, and a retrieval of the same would not be useful since the machine underwent significant changes at the time of its creation. Therefore, reconstruction of Edsac has been left with many problems since clear ideas on how the machine was wired up cannot be traced. It is reported that the project of Edsac’s recreation was initiated so that knowledge generation would be developed on how the said British Computer was built and worked. It is intended that the completed project would then become an exhibit at the National Museum of Computing to be used for teaching children about programming.
On the other hand, the news story on Estonia’s seeking security in computing cloud (Scrutton & Mardiste 2015) is to the effect that Estonia is planning to upload a significant number of its government data to computing cloud so as to protect it from security threats and make it possible for the Baltic state to be managed from abroad if need be. It is reported that Estonia is ranked among states that are most wired in the globe hence high exposure rates to security risks. Memories of the Soviet rule that took place over two decades ago coupled with the previous seizure of Crimea from Ukraine by Russia has increased the concern of Estonia regarding cyber security. In addition to this, Estonia experienced cyber attacks in 2007 that heightened after making the decision to move a Soviet-era statute. The Prime Minister confessed to the Reuters that the attacks taught Estonia a lot and therefore at present Estonia is well-prepared to face the attacks. This is reported to have been achieved by making sure that the vulnerable information systems are made less vulnerable to attacks. The plan involves cloud technology backing up data from cyber attacks, natural or human-made disasters as well as possible off-site servers in the Embassies of Estonia. Every resident of Estonia has a digital number that permits access to the services of the government and e-payments. Moreover, there exist apps on mobile telephone that keeps records of children’s school attendances as well as homework. A plan is underway to upload government data and services into a cloud and back up in commercially available clouds.
Relevance of Actor Network Theory in Studying Computing
The relevance of the actor network theory in computing is illustrated in several varied ways. An example is a way the theory does an examination of the motivations and the acts of the actors that constitute elements connected by associations of divergent networks of similar interests (Munro 2009). According to Latour (2005), the theory was developed with a major objective of comprehending processes of creativity in science and technology. Actants refer to the causes or influencers of social interactions as well as outcomes (Munro 2009). These could include sea scallops, technology or data that supports arguments of a scientist (Latour 2005). Human actors show material actants hence impacting how material environment relates with actors in the system. Actor network theory demonstrates the appropriateness of the theory in the investigation of the strategic information systems planning (Hooper 2012). In essence, the theory describes the evolution process of the network as the translation process including problematization that identifies the essential actors, as well as spelling out problems for the rest of the actors, interessment which ensures coordination of the actors in regard to the strategies developed, enrollment that constitutes the results of the past process and mobilization that maintains the network (Farias & Bender 2012). Therefore, the study of actor network theory contributes to the enrichment of the perspective of network hence providing an outline of the framework that aligns strategic information systems planning with the actor network theory about description of the inter-organisational network.
Categories of Actants and How They Act in Ressemblage in the News Stories
Actors constitute groups known to the actor network theory as actor networks (Faria & Bender 2012). Munro (2009) proposes that the word actant is more appropriate to be used instead of an actor in this context. An actant is used to refer to anything that can modify other actors through a series of actions (Farias & Bender 2012). Hooper (2012) provides for categories of actants as semantic and deep-syntactic and surface-syntactic. In the Edsac Computer story, actants include the old hardware that is being used in the recreation of the Edsac Computer. In the Estonian case, the actants include data, the apps that are used to keep track records and the e-payment devices.
Description of How the Actions Can Enhance Management Functions
As observed, the actions of the actants in our stories herein demonstrate enhancement of management functions. For example, the successful recreation of the Edsac computer shall make doing calculations to be faster. The fact that the machine is designed to be developed with a wonderful memory that does not fail or lacks delay issues guarantees efficient service delivery. Moreover, it shall enhance computing studies since the final product of the plan shall be placed at the museum to enrich resource materials for computer studies. As regards cyber security plan in Estonia, successful completion of the plan of securing government data shall enhance government activities and guarantee the availability of data at all times whenever needed. The development of a technology of e-payments and tracking progress in different areas also makes things easier and saves on time and costs incurred in accessing services as well as a provision of the said services. In essence, the actions enhance management functions by ensuring that beneficiaries receive sufficient and efficient services from the duty bearers.
Issues Associated With the Actor Network Theory
A critical analysis of different theorists on actor network theory may present contradictions as to how the whole concept is perceived. For instance, the concept according to Latour proposes that human and non-human are termed as the same while Dooyeweerd insists that humans and humans are very different. However, close examination of these propositions shows that these concepts are similar in the way they are interpreted. Dooyeweerd presents what Latour tries to explain. Dooyeweerd proposes on how the actor network theory can be enhanced while Latour provides a practical method that could be used to analyze multi-aspectual situations that exist in reality.
The above discussion is of a proposition that an actant in modern computing does not act in isolation. As seen, the Actor Network theory explores how competencies are distributed within numerous varied networks that are made of human and non-human actors. As a result, the network shapes the actors to align themselves into a network. The intermediaries are then passed among the actors in the bid to ensure that there is a required degree of convergence of the network. It is evident that there are controversies relating to the actor network theory regarding how the whole system is so dynamic and the manner in which an action in one network manages to impact the conditions of another network. This leads to a situation of dealing with actors and networks that are formed by multiple networks that are not constituted mutually and are all in constant dynamics. Nonetheless, this kind of interrelation results in a stable pattern.
BBC News, 2015, Volunteers Aid Pioneering Edsac Computer Rebuild [Online] (Updated 7 Dec. 2015) Available at: <http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-34996402 > [Accessed 7 Dec. 2015]
Farias, I., and Thomas B., 2012. Urban assemblages: How actor-network theory changes urban studies. Routledge.
Hooper, L., 2012. “Actor Network Theory.”
Law, J., 2009. “Actor network theory and material semiotics.” The new Blackwell companion to social theory, pp 141-158.
Munro, R., 2009. “Actor-network theory.” The SAGE handbook of power. London: Sage Publications Ltd, pp. 125-39.
Scrutton, A., & Mardiste, D., 2015, With An Eye On Russia, Estonia Seeks Security In Computing Cloud. [Online] (Updated 4 Dec. 2015) Available at http: < //www.reuters.com/article/us-estonia-cybersecurity< [Accessed 4 Dec. 2015].
Latour, B., 2005. Reassembling the Social-An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory. Foreword by Bruno Latour, Oxford University Press, Sep 2005. ISBN-10: 0199256047. ISBN-13: 9780199256044 1, pp. 316.
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