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You think you have problems with your research participants? : My research subjects don't have a pulse!

conference contribution
posted on 2017-12-06, 00:00 authored by Jo-Anne Luck
As a lecturer in information systems I am very interested in information technology and its uses, in particular the design and implementation of educational technologies used to support teaching and learning in higher education. I use actor-network theory (ANT) as a conceptual framework to research these technologies. ANT employs a sociotechnical approach that requires all actants (human and non-human) to be treated equally for the purposes of analysis. As a human and an ANT enthusiast, I found myself on the horns of a dilemma: is it intellectually desirable and politically responsible that 'agency' may be ascribed to non-human entities that cannot speak for themselves, thereby constructing them as potential stakeholders and/or gatekeepers? In this paper I will draw on ANT to investigate reflexively the risks and dilemmas of researching non-human entities. A nonhuman entity is a technical artefact such as a computer (it could also be an animal such as a scallop - see Callon (1986) - or a book or a policy). I will explore the various types of stakeholders and the types and roles of gatekeepers in an ANT informed study. Finally I will discuss using the metaphor of performativity as a tool to overcome the dilemmas and/or reduce the risks of researching socio-technical systems. Examples will be drawn from a study that investigates the implementation of an interactive video-conferencing network at a multi-campus, regional university in Australia.


Category 1 - Australian Competitive Grants (this includes ARC, NHMRC)


Parent Title

NZARE AARE Conference 2003 : educational research, risks, & dilemmas, 29 November - 3 December 2003, Hyatt Regency Hotel and University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand.

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End Page


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Start Date





Auckland, N.Z.


Australian Association for Research in Education

Place of Publication

Coldstream, Vic.

Peer Reviewed

  • Yes

Open Access

  • No

Era Eligible

  • Yes

Name of Conference

Australian Association for Research in Education. Conference.;New Zealand Association for Research in Education. Conference.