Difference between ‘actants’ and ‘actors’, and/or ‘micro actants’ & ‘macro actors’

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    Conor Horan

    Of late I’ve been writing papers that focus on the level of actors as informed by ANT i.e actants being more at an individual level whereas actors are being used at a more macro level (from group up to macro). I always get asked at conferences how I’ve arrived at this distinction and in reviews often get asked to clarify it more. I’ve tended to use Feldman & Pentlands chapter on routines in Czarniawska’s book on ANT as a starting point in clarifying this.


    I’m wondering what other thinking of the distinctions here and our use of constructs as we generate an acadmeic discours ein this area. Any comments and suggestions on how to clarify this would be very useful… any thoughts?


    Many thanks in advance….


    Dr Ann Lawless

    This is always tricky Connor. The classic way to treat this in academic writing is to define the terms clearly, cite the theory from which you are drawing it and which inspires and shapes it, and then use them consistently in that article/chapter/conference paper.

    The discourse in academia will build as you and others contribute to it, and who knows – might even stabilize and settle after much disclosure and use.

    I have had the same issue with using reflection v reflexivity; and with autonomy and agency. Before this site was rebuilt there were methodspace conversations about critical v critique v critical theory v criticalist. Recently I have stopped using criticalist, it was getting clumsy.

    I think it is important to stay in the space of revealing and clarifying the distinctions each time you use it – to assume your reader/listener is intelligent but not familiar with the terms or not using them in the same way as you hope/intend/assume. By your own “exposition” or reveal, you contribute to the emergence of the dialogue and the stabilization of the terms.


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