An Actor-network Theory Instrument for Design Practitioners


In this paper, we explore a novel idea of ‘theory instruments’: Tangible artefacts that encourage design practitioners in the industry to reflect on interactions with technological devices in the light of a particular theory. Our ‘Actor-Network Rings’ instrument is based on Actor-Network Theory (Latour, 1987), as this is one way to challenge taken-for-granted assumptions about what effects digitalisation has on product users and their lives. It consists of wooden rings, wooden balls, clothespins, and magnets. By adding wooden clothespins as ‘actors’ and plastic ones as ‘actants’ on a wooden ‘network’ ring, they can uphold a wooden ball which becomes visible and even tangible as a ‘program of action’. While magnets help us to indicate how actants are disciplining actors, shifting or removing clothespins visualises concepts of ‘imaginary substitution’ and ‘delegation’. We analyse two cases of how designers and design researchers in companies use the instrument to investigate dilemmas of people and technology. The playful artifact triggers participants to narrate their experiences from the field. With transcripts from video documentation and hand-drawn visualisations, we show that the instrument elicits broader insights into the dilemmas of ‘use’ and even opens ideas for future scenarios. We argue that there is a potential for developing such theory instruments that in a playful manner offer fundamental theory perspectives to inform understandings of digitalisation.


Ayse Ozge Agca
Student, PhD, University of Southern Denmark, Denmark


Presentation Type

Paper Presentation in a Themed Session


Designed Objects


Tangible Artifacts, Design Narratives, Future Scenarios