This paper discusses a methodological dilemma proposed by engaging actor-network theory (ANT) in studying collaborative research practices of researchers in a large interdisciplinary project. The paper sets the context of this large publically funded project (‘Ensemble: Semantic Technologies for the Enhancement of Case Based learning’) between Education and Computer Sciences, currently being undertaken by a consortium of six UK universities and three international partners. While a strand of ANT states that knowledge ‘emerges as continuously generated effects of webs of relations within which they are located’ (Law 2007), it is very vague in terms of how precisely does that knowledge emerge and how to study that. The methods -question was further complicated by the existence of multiple, potentially conflicting epistemological positions present at the project – how to study these without having to pass a value judgement in terms of their validity and reliability? The specific focus of the discussion is what might be termed the epistemology of actor-network theory, with particular consideration of the Principle of Symmetry. The paper suggests reading ANT through John Dewey’s Pragmatism and assesses ideas to take forward from this discussion in order to study interdisciplinary research work.
- actor-network theory
- semantic technologies