Actor-Network Theory is a theoretical and methodological approach that sees all social phenomena as the product of network interactions. It is unique in that it recognizes both objects and technologies as network nodes equal with human actants.
Actor-Network Theory (ANT) is a theoretical and methodological approach that recognizes the embeddedness of objects in our ‘social’ lives. Pioneered in the 1980s by John Law, Michel Callon, and Bruno Latour, it emerged primarily from Science and Technology Studies. While the scope of its analysis is somewhat limited, it is uniquely well suited to disassembling our relationships and interactions with new technologies. Indeed, even writing prior to the widespread use of the internet and social media technologies, Law (1992) writes that “almost all of our interactions with other people are mediated through objects of one kind or another” (p. 381-2).
ANT takes technology as equal interlocutor to humans, and thus provides a lens through which to analyze where a user and a technology sit in relation to each other but also in relation to a larger network of materials and people. It discourages essentialism with regards to larger social constructs, and instead encourages the deconstruction of "black-boxed" networks and examination of how technologies are changed by their context (Law 2006). It is a material-semiotic approach in that it acknowledges and seeks to map how objects and meaning are intertwined.
Law, J. (1992). Notes on the theory of the actor-network: Ordering, strategy, and heterogeneity. Systems practice, 5(4), 379-393.
Law, J. (2006). Traduction/trahison: Notes on ANT. Convergencia, 13(42), 47-72.