Actor Network Theory and the Trafigura twitter saga

Posted on: October 17, 2009


The recent twitter / Trafigura saga has been lauded as a fantastic example of the power of new media, up there with Obama’s election victory and Susan Boyle‘s rapid ascent to fame courtesy of YouTube. Essentially a legal injunction blocking the UK Guardian from reporting on an environmental scandal was overturned after massive attention from the twittersphere.

“The Guardian story announcing that it had been restricted by an existing high court order from reporting certain parliamentary proceedings had been published online for just a matter of minutes before internet users began tearing apart the gag.

On Monday evening, blogs and the social networking site Twitter buzzed as users rushed to solve the mystery of who was behind the gagging attempt that less than an hour earlier had prevented the newspaper reporting details of a question tabled by an MP to be answered by a minister later this week.”

Robert Booth

Actor-network theory (ANT) proposes that both humans and non-humans are significant powerful elements in our systems. These ‘hairy objects’ are all interrelated, and go through trials of strength which determine their place in the scheme of things (See Michel Callon and Bruno Latour). Ultimately, each network is always made up of entities that are in turn other networks. 

This story is an excellent ANT example as it enables us to observe a trial of strength between the twitter platform (and the power it has amassed through its users), the UK government (and its bearaucracy), the Trafigura company (and its connections and buying power). It shows how twitter (non-human) can amplify the power of its users (humans) who gave twitter its power in the first place.

In this example twitter has been used to promote a democratic outcome. But power is not right or wrong, it just is. In the same way that Google has come under fire on the grounds of privacy and market domination as it grew, it is only a matter of time before twitter does too – and we will see whether it has learnt from Google’s misadventures and can manage to balance its commercial interests with corporate social responsibility.  

twitter followers picture by brajeshwar


2 Responses to "Actor Network Theory and the Trafigura twitter saga"

[…] Thus it was with glee I referred to ANT theory in my recent post on Trafigura. […]

[…] is indeed going to implement a ‘fix’ to trends, given their extensive reach and the political power that can be wielded via their platform it is essential that they are transparent in explaining what exactly the algorithm is that […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This blog is about utilizing and optimizing the social web for business, pleasure and social change

My tweets

Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Creative Commons License
This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Licence.

The views in this blog do not reflect that of my employer