Strategies of Thought : Bruno Latour on Networks (and a bit more Non-Place)

This week’s Strategies of Thought reading was Bruno Latour on Networks. I found the reading quite hard to get a handle on and so was looking forward to getting some clarification from the lecture and seminar, which did happen (to a point).

My understanding of Actor Network Theory, as a way of thinking about the vast web of connections connected to every thing, made sense to me as I always try to bear in mind the people, resources and knowledge that make our way of life possible. Things we take for granted, from transport networks to ready to wear clothes, require huge amounts of infrastructure which is invisible to us as consumers until it breaks down and I think it is important to be aware of this.

Actor Network Theory also seemed to me to fit well with the contemporary interest in the provenance of goods, which is almost like ANT working in reverse as consumers track back the steps of production. This is probably the point that is most relevant to my practice but, to be honest, I can’t really see myself coming back to Latour.

Far more relevant to my practice was the studio seminar on Non-Place. The Trafford Centre was a major talking point, as a prime example of non-place. As someone who is very familiar with that environment I could easily relate to a lot of the points made in the seminar, from the need for bizarre decoration to gain some individual identity to the use of visual references from the area’s history to claim a history that doesn’t exist.

I think the idea of localism, as opposed to the facelessness of non-places like the Trafford Centre, is very relevant to the current interest in craft and how it can be used as a social/political tool. Crafted pieces have an inherent history and link with tradition, quite distinct from the lack of history integral to non-places, and quite often will be made, sold and used in the same local area. It is interesting to see how crafted objects function at craft fairs held in what could be considered non-places, and whether the abundance of local, historical objects can bring their own sense of place.