Latour on research: moving back and forth between performances and competence

“If there is something in common between science and the humanities it is the habit of moving back and forth between actants and actors…”Actant” is part of semiotic jargon, and I agree that the word could put off those trained in the natural sciences. But as a practice it’s a fairly common movement. All entities manipulated by scientists start as a list of actions, and then slowly coalesce later into the name of an object that summarises or stabilises them for further retrieval. Even though this is how discovery is achieved every day, this is such a trivial transformation that it disappears from view as soon as it is achieved”.

Latour distinguishes between a diachronic dynamic semiosis of unstable assemblages of attributes and a synchronic static semiotics of stabilised substance. We need to move back and forth between both, assembling performances into competences (constructive movement) and dissolving competences to recover performances (deconstructive movement).

Latour distinguishes between a diachronic dynamic semiosis of unstable assemblages of attributes and a synchronic static semiotics of stabilised substance. We need to move back and forth between both, assembling performances into competences (constructive movement) and dissolving competences to recover performances (deconstructive movement).

 

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