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Actant, what?

March 19, 2012

In my opinion, the term “assemblages” (Manuel DeLanda, Felix Guattari and Gilles Deleuze) can be simplified to mean that in order to gain a deep understanding of something or to be able to analyse it properly, one must break down the whole picture or the larger assemblage and view each of the smaller components individually. Further, these assemblages all combine to make up publishing’s relation to broader society.

Since my understanding of this theory still remains fairly basic, (I’m hoping this will change come the end of this weeks tutorial) I think the easiest way for me to reflect on these ideas is to relate them to real life examples that I do have a decent understanding of.

Paralleling this idea to publishing, an example of this ideology can be reflected through the media platform newspapers. In order to appreciate a newspaper and understand the varying elements, it is essential to understand the many components that make up the larger assemblage of this form of publishing. Newspapers would not exist without Journalist’s, or editors, or issues within society to write about. Further, they would not exist without paper, which would not exist without trees, and trees wouldn’t exist without water and sunlight. (Yes it can get as intricate as that.)

French thinker Bruno Latour came up with an idea called Actor Network Theory (ANT), which he uses to analyse the assemblages theory. Latour focuses on what Delanda refers to as ‘flat ontology’. Ontology refers to the study of being, existence or reality and the flat beforehand refers to the flattening of the hierarchy that usually places Human beings on top of any other element. Latour ‘flattens’ this theory and places humans and non-humans (actants) on the same level. This further relates to my point above about newspapers where the trees, sunshine and water have to be recognised when analysing the larger assemblage of the publishing medium.

References-
http://www.bruno-latour.fr/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ontology
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Actor-network_theory
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_New_Philosophy_of_Society:_Assemblage_Theory_and_Social_Complexity

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