Humans in innovative work – a semiotic discussion

Mads Bendixen

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperResearch


    This paper is concerned with Actor-Network Theory's (ANT) approach to aspects of humanness. Firstly, it is suggested that in ANT's many studies of innovations there seems to be a lack of interest in some important effects of humans. Recently, Latour has suggested to view the human 'inside' as always coming from the 'outside' and that the more attachments an actor has the better. It is argued that this approach has a tendency to disregard some effects of, for instance, human materiality and self-control, relating for instance to work stress. Thus, ANT tends to not thoroughly utilize its principle of generalized symmetry when it comes to humans in innovative work. It is further argued that the proposed negligence may be due to some implications of the semiotic heritage affecting the approach. These limitations are related to a 'dyadic semiotics' adhering to the principle of meaning as 'a difference that makes a difference', which is translated into ANT's 'materialist semiotics' of 'mediators making other mediators do things'. Charles S. Peirce's triadic semiotic is discussed as a possible remedy for the suggested shortcomings of ANT. Drawing on material from the author's ongoing ethnographic study on the limiting and facilitating aspects of innovative efforts in a consulting engineering firm, the paper seeks to illustrate how a Peircian semiotic approach can contribute to an ANT-inspired study of innovation in a way that maintains the principle of generalized symmetry while at the same time pays interest to triadic sign production and it's particularities with regard to human actants.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication date2006
    Publication statusPublished - 2006
    EventEuropean Association for the Studies of Science and Technology - University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland
    Duration: 1 Jan 2007 → …


    ConferenceEuropean Association for the Studies of Science and Technology
    LocationUniversity of Lausanne
    Period01/01/2007 → …


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