Angels in Unstable Sociomaterial Relations: Stories of Information Technology

Document type: Dissertations
Full text:
Author(s): Pirjo Elovaara
Title: Angels in Unstable Sociomaterial Relations: Stories of Information Technology
Series: Blekinge Institute of Technology Dissertation Series
Year: 2004
Issue: 2
Pagination: 218
ISBN: 91-7295-037-4
ISSN: 1650-21592090
Publisher: Blekinge Institute of Technology
City: Karlskrona
Organization: Blekinge Institute of Technology
Department: School of Technoculture, Humanities and Planning (Sektionen för teknokultur, humaniora och samhällsbyggnad)
School of Technoculture, Humanities and Planning S-371 79 Karlskrona
+46 455 38 50 00
http://www.tks.bth.se/
Language: English
Abstract: I have explored spaces, where negotiations of border transgressions take place and where issues of technology and politics mingle. We meet a diversity of actors in the world of information technology (IT): political texts, people and technology participating in numerous sociomaterial relations. Time is the end of the 1990s and the beginning of the new millennium, 2000. Years, when IT occupied the western world and created its own fuzzy discourse. Years, when IT stole the biggest newspaper headlines and years, when IT became a mundane everyday part of our work practices. Years, when we learned to live in heterogeneous worlds.

Actor-Network Theory (ANT) and Actor-Network Theory and After (ANTa) provide analytical and methodological perspectives when working with the empirical material. I present a chronological exposé of some of the key concepts of ANT and ANTa. I also discuss how the classical ANT perspective has changed during the last few years from being a theory of networks to become a methodological and analytical approach to other kinds of spaces such as fluid and fire.

The heart of the thesis consists of six empirical cases. My aim of writing stories of information technology has been to investigate the black box of information technology. Investigating includes also efforts of opening. Concepts that are taken for granted, such as the very notion of information technology in my case, can be explored, questioned, transgressed, blurred and opened up. Each of the diffracted stories is specific and unique, with its own actors, context, location and situatedness. But the stories are also connected through ANT, and feminist technology and technoscience studies.

Case number one, ‘Discourses and Cracks – A Case Study of Information Technology and Writing Women in a Regional Context ’, is about a project, where questions concerning discourses of information society with a special focus on citizenship are discussed and where global and national politics are translated to local and situated practices.

Case number two, ‘Translating and Negotiating Information Technology ’, consists of two main parts. The fi rst one is about a regional library project. The analysis of the project is based on the classical Actor Network Theory (ANT) approach that invites the study of the heterogeneous and negotiable shaping of IT. The second part is about librarians developing web-based services. The analysis is inspired by the later development of ANT (called ANTa in the thesis) in order to include more invisible actors, relations and negotiations.

Case number three, ‘Negotiating Information Technology: Politics and Practices of The Public Sector Web Production’, is about work practices of a municipal web developer, through which creation of sociotechnical relations of everyday information technology practices is analysed and also mirrored to national and local IT politics.

Case number four, ‘Making e-Government Happen – Everyday Co-Development of Services, Citizenship and Technology’, is presenting the same web developer as in the third case, but now his everyday practices are connected with an expanded and wider circuit of co-constructors of information technology. The text is a co-production of a multidisciplinary research group aiming to describe, analyse and problematise connections when creating practices, where technology and society collaborate.

Case number fi ve, ‘Citizenship at the Crossroads of Multiple Layers of Sociotechnical Relations’, enrols technology as an active actor in the construction of citizenship in an IT context in Sweden. The perspective emphasising the active agency of non-humans both enhances and challenges the Scandinavian approach of systems development by suggesting a direction towards a cyborgian approach towards technology design.

Case number six, ‘Between Stability and Instability – a Project about e-Democracy ’, takes its point of departure from a small-scale project having as its goal the development of e-democracy in a municipal context. In the text the focus is on the stabilisation processes in shaping the technology (‘e’) and democracy parts of the project. I also discuss what kinds of spaces exist in between (the hyphen in e-democracy) and ask if integration between technology and democracy is possible as a whole.

Finally, my intention is to step further into stories and practices not yet existing. Inspired by the French philosopher Michel Serres, I introduce the fi guration of an angel as a cartographer, intermediator and (co-) constructor of sociomaterial relations. Angels are needed to sew the separate fi elds of technology, politics and everyday practices to a rich seamless tapestry. They are the ‘artful integrators’ (Suchman).
Subject: Technoscience Studies\Feminist Technoscience
Keywords: Information Technology (IT), Actor-Network Theory (ANT), Actor-Network Theory and After (ANTa), Feminist technology, Technoscience studies
URN: urn:nbn:se:bth-00306
Edit