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.