How well does ANT equip designers for socio-material speculations?

Wilkie, Alex. 2019. How well does ANT equip designers for socio-material speculations? In: Anders Blok; Ignacio Farías and Celia Roberts, eds. The Routledge Companion to Actor-Network Theory. Abingdon, UK & New York, USA: Routledge, pp. 389-399. ISBN 9781138084728 [Book Section]

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Abstract or Description

In conversation with Claire Parnet, Gilles Deleuze (2002: 2) evokes the image of the be-coming of the orchid and the wasp: A ‘double capture’ whereby, and momentarily, each becomes a function of the other’s doings. In considering actor-network theory and design practice, this image is appealing as it can be understood to stage two ways by which their practices can be seen to converge. In the first, each discipline captures something from the other. For orthodox scholars of ANT design becomes another empirical domain to describe. For designers, ANT becomes another explanatory resource with which to capture the social and warrant the arrival of the new. A second way of relating, recalling Isabelle Stengers’ ‘reciprocal capture,’ a variant of double capture, opens up the possibility of the emergence of shared practices of empirical socio-material speculation where adding designed propositions to collectives brings into being new prospects and capacities to act. In what follows, and after a brief discussion of the possibility of ANT and design as a constructivist proposition, I outline how ANT can be understood to support design practitioners. I then draw on the case of an interdisciplinary project, involving designers and STS practitioners, to discuss how a workshop for exploring the use of smart energy monitors – and resourcing the design and deployment of an interactive research device amongst UK-based energy communities – involved practices of retroscription and procomposition. Here, retroscription characterises the visual and analytic evocation of the lived and situated experience of using smart monitors, whereas procomposition involves the mobilisation and re-patterning of retroscriptions into novel speculative compossibilities.

Item Type:

Book Section

Additional Information:

This is an Accepted Manuscript of a book chapter published by Routledge/CRC Press in The Routledge Companion to Actor-Network Theory on 17 June 2019, available online:


Actor-Network Theory; Science and Technology Studies; Gilles Deleuze; Isabelle Stengers;

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Design > Interaction Research Studio
Sociology > Centre for Study of Invention and Social Process (CSISP) [2003-2015]
Design > Design Societies Research Unit


25 June 2019Published
17 June 2019Published Online

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Date Deposited:

29 Jan 2020 17:07

Last Modified:

24 May 2023 14:03


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