Actors, associations and change: Understanding it controversies at Tectra – an ANT perspective

Mads Røder

Student thesis: Master thesis


This thesis focuses on how Actor-Network Theory (ANT) can be used to analyze and understand a change process in the case company Tectra. The motivation behind it is partly because ANT allows a unique perspective and approach to analyzing change processes, and partly to test if ANT is applicable to my case, and whether there are any discrepancies between theory and empirical data. The research question then, is: How does the change process affect the involved actors, including the proposal itself, and why does the proposed change to the patent database encounter problems? The case description details the CEO of Tectra and his struggle to change the way Inteum C/S is used by the employees of Tectra in order to improve the reporting foundation. Empirical data stems from qualitative interviews with the CEO and other key employees as well as my own observations during my 6-month work period, and various manuals and folders. In my thesis I assume a social constructionist stance. The analysis is structured according to the four moments of translation as formulated by Callon, and through them is examined what happens as the CEO introduces a range of new actors into the network. The analysis examines how and why the network is transformed as both external and internal forces exert influence over actors and relationships. At the outset of the case, the CEO is the primary actor, but this changes over the course of time, altering the original intent and purpose of the database. I end the analysis by examining an alternative to the CEO as primary actor; what would happen if the database, Inteum C/S was used instead (since ANT does not discern between human and non-human actors). In the conclusion I revisit the research question and discuss the viability of ANT in my thesis, its strengths and shortcomings. I conclude that using ANT as theory of choice enabled me to analyze the case at a more granular level than otherwise possible: The CEO experienced issues because he did not take into account the relations between actors, as well as the relations that make up the actors themselves. By analyzing actors, relations and the influence they exercise during the translation process it becomes clear that as the CEO seeks to change all the actors in Tectra, he himself as well as his whole program of action is changed in turn, altering his perception of Inteum C/S and the end goal of the database.

EducationsMSc in Business Administration and Information Systems, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2013
Number of pages64