AN EPISODE FROM THE SOCIAL HISTORY OF TECHNOLOGY IN THE LIGHT OF ACTOR-NETWORK THEORY OF BRUNO LATOUR

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Transliteration of original Title: 
Epizod iz sotsial'noi istorii tekhniki v svete aktorno - setevoi teorii Bruno Latura
Author(s): 
Elena L. Zheltova
Vavilov Institute for the History of Science and Technology, Russian Academy of Sciences
Issue number: 
No.4 (Vol.54)
Pages: 
191-201
Abstract: 

The article starts with the brief review of the history of the creation of actor-network theory (ANT), followed by the explanation of its basic notions. The author observes the difficulties of understanding and translation of the main ANT terms “actor” and “network”. In the main part of the article the author considers a famous episode from the history of giant airships known as “Miracle at Echterdingen” – that is a sudden revelation of the national spirit of German Empire as the result of the flight and catastrophe of zeppelin LZ4 in august 1908.  She discusses methodological limits of the historical reconstructions of “Miracle at Echterdingen” in Douglas Botting’s “The Giant Airships” (1980) and Peter Fritzche’s “Nation of Fliers” (1992). It is demonstrated that ANT allows to overcome not only the obvious weakness of the linear narrative that Botting followed, but also the oxydenthalism of Peter Fritsche’s approach and to confirm Latour's thesis that “modernism’s accounts of itself may have no relation to what has actually happened to it”. As the result of the implementation of ANT, the network of forces which circulated in German society and lead to the Echterdingen phenomenon, is revealed. 

Keywords: 
Bruno Latour, actor-network theory, philosophy of technology, history of technology, history of giant airships, miracle at Echterdingen, LZ4
References: 

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DOI: 
10.5840/eps201754482
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