What are the pillars of stability and endurance of sociotechnical networks? Studying research and innovation in post-communist transitions
Ivan Tchalakov (University of Plovdiv)
Evgeniya Popova (Tomsk State University)
Changing Knowledge Communities
Economy 16
Wednesday 17 September, 10:30-12:15 (UTC+0)

Short abstract:

Actor-Network Theory, human actors, sociotechnical networks, edurance and stability, research and innovation, post-comunist transition

Long abstract:

This track addresses the role of human actors in maintaining stability and endurance of sociotechnical networks. There is a powerful STS trend - Actor-Network Theory and Sociology of Large Technical Systems as two examples - assuming that 'taming' of nonhumans do require devotion and hard work of humans, yet without the fusion of these efforts with the rock-solid materiality of the objects the sociotechnical networks are constantly under threat of dissipation and decay. However, in some specific circumstances humans should also be considered as 'the most reliable link in the chain'. When studying researchers or high-tech entrepreneurs in post-communist transition - where the inherent uncertainty of research and innovation was accompanied by financial crises, legal and political anomy, degradation of research and technology infrastructure, breaks in supply of information, equipment, materials, etc. - we found that research and innovations often progressed because of the inability of humans to surrender to the circumstances.

Strangely enough, when applying ANT 'symmetric anthropology' in the study of research and innovation under difficult societal conditions, new asymmetries emerge that call for refining some of Actor-Network Theory key concepts. These asymmetries go beyond the old Cartesian schemes, inviting ANT to possible dialog with other schools of thought. To mention just two of them, being a 'spoke-person of nonhumans' means not just 'translation' and 'alignment', but also endurance, 'passivity and responsibility' of human actors' (Levinas) to their non-human fellows, as well as awareness about the 'insurmountable depth' of the objects and their interactions (Harman).

The papers will be presented in the order shown and in one session