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.


wardley


Previous post
Be Foxy, but don’t get eaten “Hedgehogs are deeply and tightly focused. Some have spent their career studying one problem. Like Ehrlich and Simon, they fashion tidy theories of
Next post
It’s less impressive when a computer does it Some guys at MIT built an electric DeLorean that drifts.