Translations: Artifacts from an Actor-Network Perspective

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John Shiga


iPods, MP3s and file-sharing networks performa series of actions that are often reserved forhuman agents, such as the intellectual and tastedrivenlabor involved in selecting, sequencing, andrediscovering forgotten sound recordings. At thesame time, the familiar understanding of artifactsas stable, material, objective things “out there”is also being eroded by the infinite replicability,malleability, and ephemeral flickering of thingsonline. These trends lead to questions regardingthe ontological status of artifacts and reopenthe question of how to distinguish technicaland material artifacts from human and socialrelations. In this article, the author explores actornetworktheory’s (ANT) concept of translation,which advances an alternative framework forunderstanding the role of artifacts in everyday life.

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