Actor-Network Theory and The Lake Turkana Wind Power Project: The art of Chastening Innovations

Mikael Ƙstergaard Nielsen

Student thesis: Master thesis


Proponents of Actor-Network Theory (ANT) has for some time challenged classical constructivist approaches, such as diffusion theory, in explaining the success or failure of innovations1. Classic sociology tends to reduce explanation to the intrinsic qualities of either humans or objects2. On the other hand, ANT is an empirical grounded approach that takes into consideration the complex and changing context of human and non-human entities in contrast to the famous diffusion model which supposes an irremediable separation between an innovation and its environment3. Instead of aiming for generic explanations ANT makes no assumptions about the qualities of humans or objects, but explores the connections between these elements that make an innovation durable Innovation projects that involve entities from the social, technical, economic and political domain can be a challenge for any innovation manager to chasten. This was experienced in France where the construction of a wind farm met severe and unexpected resistance from actors whose interests were not considered5. In Kenya a similar, but much larger wind farm project, is being constructed and has been under development since 2005. The project is called the Lake Turkana Wind Power project (LTWP) and is of the same complex nature that large-scale energy projects typically are embedded in. Therefore, the purpose of this thesis has been to utilize ANT in order to investigate how the Lake Turkana project has been mobilized and how ANT can be used to manage innovation projects. The investigation takes it point of departure in the hypothesis that an explanation can be reached if we aim for a saturated description of the innovation project. By combining concept-driven coding, meaning condensation with the concepts and the model of interessement that ANT offers, a description of the innovation project is made. From the translation process and the case description it can be seen how actors are associated in the innovation project and how each actor has contributed to, or been in resistance with, the mobilization of the Lake Turkana project. The findings in this thesis shows how the success of innovations are relying on knowing the interests of actors so that negotiations can be made that convinces the actors to be in compliance with the network. It further shows how ANT can be used to create a methodology that can be used to describe complex innovation projects.

EducationsMSocSc in Organisational Innovation and Entrepreneurship , (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2015
Number of pages96