Bruno Latour in a conference address urged the audience to rethink the predominant western principles of identity that are surrounding by defining oneself as a single entity. Descartes famous ‘to be or not to be’ soliloquy, while providing existential reasoning for our very state of being, paints an inward view of oneself that falls short when attempting to understand linkages to others in networks. Latour’s Actor Network Theory (ANT) instead urges individuals to think of identity as something that is not classified by being, but rather by having. Through understanding what we own as individuals, be it family, knowledge, wealth etc… we can understand why we are members of our networks. Ownership of such characteristics makes actors undeniably the cause of networking activities and as such, actors and networks are causal and cannot be attributed to an objective ‘social’ as other network theorists such as Kadushin may imply. In chapter 4 of Kadushin’s (2012) “Understanding Social Networks”, he breaks down core and periphery membership patterns to help the reader understand why networks come together or may break apart. By continuing his helicopter metaphor – that networks can be understood better by looking at a traffic jam from a helicopter – he maps out basic principles of how non-overlapping communities of networks are mapped and connected. While Kadushin attempts to explain the makeup of social networks, Latour’s ANT explains WHY networks are formed in the beginning.
Abbate’s (1999) narrative on the social construction of packet-data technology and the necessity for founders to present the technology to government-sponsored programs or in response to political agendas demonstrates that useful technologies may not become ubiquitous or even developed due to social forces. However, the Internet is challenging barriers that power structures have used in the past to prevent technology deployment. Social networks have allowed individuals to find new platforms and place insurmountable pressures on governments, as seen in this year’s Kony 2012 campaign. Kickstarter.com allows individuals to sponsor projects that require funding and encourages the development of technologies such as video games outside of the influence of industry leaders. In 1999, Tim Berners-Lee said the Internet is not done and that he had hopes for large companies of the government to fund research to improve it (Wired). While he more recently said that a more semantic and linked web is upon us in what is next to come with Web 3.0, he still hopes that major players like Google will play a major part in this activity (2009, MacManus). However questions of ownership and accountability of users to organize their contributions that paint the Web 2.0 landscape are still yet to be answered and will continue to be asked. Mutual management between organizational ownership and individual ownership of any technology is a new relationship that users and organizations have with the Internet and one that neither party will want to forfeit nor completely own.