What happens to ANT, and its emphasis on the sociomaterial grounding of the social, in digital sociology? (2018)
Data-intensive platform media bring up, but also reconfigure the question of the socio-material grounding of the social. This chapter explores how recent engagements with platforms and digital sociology do more than just vindicate ANT’s outlook of a flat socio-material account of the social without inbuilt levels of ‘micro’ and ‘macro.’ It argues that social media platforms reconfigure who or what can count as an actor, what counts as social and what as material, and renders these ambivalences a question of method. In a case study of tweets in the run-up to the Brexit vote, this paper engages with the increasing automation of social life through bots, software-enabled activity and cross-syndication services, and inquires into the specific socio-material constitution of the social in platform media and the limits their infrastructures put on ANT’s foundational principle of ‘follow the actor.’ If the socio-material accomplishment is increasingly obfuscated, platform-based methodologies may involve different, unexpected and more difficult manoeuvres than straightforward acts of following.
Gerlitz, Carolin / Esther Weltevrede (2018): „What happens to ANT, and its emphasis on the sociomaterial grounding of the social, in digital sociology?“, in: Anders Blok / Ignacio Farias / Celia
Roberts (Hg.): Companion to Actor-Network Theory. London, S. 345–356.