Network Theory| Networks, Societies, Spheres: Reflections of an Actor-network Theorist

Bruno Latour


In one way or another, we are all in this room responsible for having given to the notion of network an immense, and some could say, a hegemonic extension. Either because some of you have created the hardware or software infrastructure that has added digital networks to the already existing water, sewage, road, rail, telegraph, telephone networks, or because others, through media studies, sociology, history, political sciences, and even philosophy and brain science, have tried to capture what is so original in the new networky world generated by those new socio-technical assemblages. The reason I have welcomed the kind invitation of Professor Manuel Castells is that, because of the very extension of network (as a thing of the world as well as a concept), the time has come to check what it really means and maybe to shift somewhat its ambition and modify its real import. When a notion has become enshrined into a work of art like James Cameron’s “Avatar” with the planet Pandora itself sprouting its billions of webby connections and the very notion of communication among the Na’vis and their creatures being materialized by a real plug-in of hair, tails, and manes, it might be time to stop and ask: “What have we done?”

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