By Leslie Bethell
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Additional resources for Cambridge University Press Network Theorizing Knowledge Work in Telecommunications
These historically separate technologies – voice mail, Web browsing, e-mail, text messaging, games, photography – are brought together and hybridized in one device attached to one network. The technician’s net work involved and still involves splicing, looking at existing networks, figuring out how to connect them productively (however that’s defined), attempting to meet the needs of all these technologies, their users, and those who develop and maintain them. Whereas woven networks grow through development, spliced networks grow through opportunistic alliances, through unpredictable jumps and sideways connections.
As one Telecorp employee put it, customers paid Telecorp to deal with BigTel so they didn’t have to. Even when customers were serviced by Telecorp’s own fledgling network rather than BigTel’s, their phone service was typically a collaboration among providers. Local providers have to hook up to each other’s equipment and networks; long distance providers continually lease space to each other and bargain for the best prices on leased space. So even Telecorp’s physical network consisted of many copresent, overlapping, spliced networks controlled by various companies.
In the process, I’ll discuss a key difference between activity theory and actor– network theory, the difference between woven and spliced networks. And I ask the question: how did Telecorp come to be organized the way it is, with every worker massed on the company’s border? We’ll defer that question for a chapter while we delve into theory. How are networks theorized? In Chapter 3, we’ll back off from the empirical case and instead explore the theoretical and methodological differences between activity theory and actor–network theory.