Monday, July 12, 2010

Reading :: Building the Trident Network

Building the Trident Network: A Study of the Enrollment of People, Knowledge, and Machines
By Maggie Mort

If I were Randy on American Idol, my review would be an inarticulate "I don't know, man, it was just all right for me." It's hard to put my finger on exactly why I couldn't get excited about this book. The framing is actor-network theory; the question is the underexplored issue of "disenrollment," in which actor-networks divest actors; the study is of a large-scale sociotechnical network bent to building Trident submarines in Britain, and the problems and issues that surround that vexed network.

And yet I had a hard time maintaining interest. Partly, I think, it was because the ANT framing was too thinly applied. Partly it was because "disenrollment" is a thin concept on which to hang a book. Partly it was because the author seemed too invested in labor's side of the controversy, and too interested in describing failures rather than successes. Maybe it was the writing style. In any case, I found myself flipping and skimming and looking for something I could use. In the end, I felt that some buried treasure must have remained in the pages, but I wasn't up to uncovering it. Perhaps after some time has passed, I'll dig up some reviews and find out what others got from it. But for now, I would suggest some of the many other, more theoretically rewarding ANT books out there.

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