Using actor-network theory as an ontology

Actor-network theory imagines the social world as a buildup of sedimentation as alliances appear to become irreversible and asymmetric. The processes of interesting and enrolling others get replaced. As I played with this image in my mind, I got to wondering about the varied pressures involved. While sedimentary pressures explain a portion of this phenomena, I came up with three others to round out the picture. Here's a taxonomy of four varieties of pressures involved in alliance formation and perpetuation.

Sedimentary pressures: When we're looking for patterns of alliances, interconnections and mediations, sedimentary pressures become obvious. Agreements become settled and remain the same over time. Pressures to honor traditions and execute legacy practices keep situations "set in cement". On a personal level, sedimentary pressures result in habits that are hard to break and deeply held beliefs that defy attempts to change them. We settle into routine roles, reactions and categorizations which show up in organizational settings as "bureaucratic stagnation", "resistance to change" and "failed attempts to revise policy, culture or strategy".

Performance pressures: When we're looking for results. progress and successes, performance pressures become readable. Pressures arise from rival efforts, time & budget constraints or self imposed targets. We're feeling pressured to get ahead, get closer to goals and get better at moving forward. We're keenly aware of the passage of linear time which can be wasted, lost or misused. We're captivated by a game to play by the rules, a contest to win or a challenge to endure victoriously.

Compatibility pressures: When we're looking for benefits of interacting, valued realized from cooperating or differences made by relating, compatibility pressures stand out. There are pressures to become more tolerant, accepting of differences and open to diversity. There are pressures to lose rigid opinions, to let go of grudges and to abandon our attempts to be in control. Likewise the others are pressured to accommodate our potential contributions, understand our different outlooks and work with our set of resources. When these compatibility pressures take hold, the space is created to become interested in others interests and find they are interested in our own interests. We become enrolled in their projects and they in ours.

Transformational pressures: When we're enjoying the fruits of collaborations, rapport and mutual respect, there are transformational pressures to renew the situation with this energy. There are opportunities to revise underlying beliefs about what always and never happens. There are ways to explore previous unimagined solutions to chronic problems. There are expectations that the collaborations can take lasting effect in others lives which have been touched by these examples of working together effectively. The growth then becomes contagious and rhizomatic.

One impression I got from these this taxonomy is how pressures can be good. Another is how one kind of pressure leads to the next. There also appears to be sense where added pressures expand the awareness of the participants. This could result in becoming more inclusive, relational and symmetric which would add connections with other mediating & translating actants. Actor-network theory would then be used as an ontology that shows us a way to be in this world.

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