Assemblage

OK, one quick read of the course outline section relating to Assemblage and I can already tell the readings are going to be a whole lot of abstract mumbo jumbo that I will not understand and will seemingly have no use to the progression of human society. But I guess that’s just the skeptic in me. However, having said that, I’m willing to give it a go.

From the course outline I found that an assemblage is really exactly what it sounds like: “an assembling of elements or relations”. A Frenchman named Bruno Latour attempts to give us a method to think about these assemblages, a theory know as ANT or Actor-Network Theory, which involves a “flat ontology”. Essentially, this means that all the elements within an assemblage should be treated equally.

A simple example from Wikipedia really helped me understand this far-out concept. “The interactions in a school involve children, teachers, their ideas, and technologies (such as tables, chairs, computers and stationery). Together these form a single network“. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Actor%E2%80%93network_theory] It is here that ANT becomes controversial. Both human (the teachers, students etc.) and non-human (stationery, computers etc.) “actants” should have equal “agency” as they are part of the same network.

So we can see that ANT in a way seeks to explain ‘ecosystems’. In the school for example, all the actants ensure the smooth running of the network. But how can we use ANT to explain publishing? Well, we can always look at e-readers again can’t we? Electronic readers require a number of different actantsin making up their network and fulfilling their purpose. Firstly, you need the audience (the reader). Other than that, you really only need a published book and power source to charge the e-reader. Compare this to a

Bruno Latour - striking a pose

traditional book. You have the same audience and you also need the book to be published, buy you do not need any power source. A traditional book is eternal (theoretically, not literally). It will always be there. It will never run out of power, never have a technical melt-down. So, I think that the traditional book wins this battle. But I very much doubt it will win the war.

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