December 26, 2019

Mr Wardely, meet Mr Latour

A long time ago, I had to wrap my head around Actor-Network Theory (ANT). ANT traces it’s origins to Bruno Latour, Michel Callon and John Law, among others. I learned it from Anni Dugdale. A lot of people don’t like ANT (see the criticism section on wikipedia) but I’ve found it useful. To put it really simply, it’s a way to think about how different arrangements of people and things result in different outcomes.

A slightly less long time ago, I came across Simon Wardley’s eponymous mapping.

More recently, I came across Matt Edgar’s brilliant post, Three Lives of the front-facing camera which used Wardley Mapping as a way to visualise actor-networks. Edgar’s follow up where he finds some troubles with Wardley Mapping is also fantastic and is very actor-network-y, too.

Latour’s website is awful. Click the article title to get the PDF.

All this rolled around in my mind for a while until I remembered Latour wrote an essay (or gave a speech, or both) about… design. And Peter Sloterdijk. And… look, I honestly don’t know and I’ve read it more than a few times.

In that essay, Latour ends with:

So here is the question I wish to raise to designers: where are the visualization tools that allow the contradictory and controversial nature of matters of concern to be represented? […] What is needed instead are tools that capture what have always been the hidden practices of modernist innovations: objects have always been projects; matters of fact have always been matters of concern.

I think Wardley Maps might be one way to create the visualisations that Latour was writing about.


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