Cambridge University Press Network Theorizing Knowledge Work by Leslie Bethell

By Leslie Bethell

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Then they shall have it: they shall be supplied with backup power generators and alert technicians who know how to coax them back online. Are dogs like Rex liable to fight or flee when a tech enters their backyard? Then the tech must be warned. When these actants betrayed Telecorp by being cut, by going down in a power failure, or by escaping from the backyard, Telecorp had to attend to these ruptures as quickly as possible and to reenroll the actants. Telecorp’s actor–network was thick with actants, but particularly texts, which strengthened and lengthened the network, kept actants in line and reenrolled traitors so Telecorp could provide coherent, unitary service.

Let’s start by contemplating how sociotechnical networks are built, using Telecorp as an example. 1 Let’s separate these – artificially, of course, since any network involves both ways of building – and examine them closely here; we’ll complicate the distinction in Chapter 3. Woven networks are exemplified by the artisan who weaves nets for fishermen. In Activity, Consciousness, and Personality (1978, p. 63), A. N. 1 Johndan Johnson-Eilola (1998) draws a similar distinction between “depth” (time) and “surface” (space).

At the same time that these scholars are attempting to shore up the stability of actor–networks, as I noted earlier in the chapter, Engestr¨om et al. (1999) and Nardi et al. (2002) are grappling with the problem of too much stability in activity networks. I won’t promise a tertium quid or a “just right” solution, but I turn to genre as a way to frame the stability/instability dialogue more productively. Genre supplies an account of stability-with-flexibility that is more fleshed out than fluids, modes of coordination, and regimes and at the same time leverages the notion of inscription that is so important to actor–network theory.

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