The Case for Asymmetry in Online Research: Caring About Issues in Australian and Canadian Web 1.0 Bee Networks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

We critically engage with the actor–network theory precept that human and nonhuman actants have symmetrical capacities. In contrast, we distinguish actor-actants, who have the capacity to care about other actants, from issue-actants, who do not. We explore the gathering of participants leading to the emergence of matters of concern by mapping how Australian and Canadian bee-related websites connect to the issue of bee extinction (“colony collapse”). A “symmetrical” hypothesis was that major differences in local geographies and exposure to parasites would result in different rates of connection. This hypothesis was confirmed: All influential Canadian actor-actants connected to “colony collapse,” whereas no influential Australian actor-actants did. Our findings also suggest an “asymmetrical” interpretation: Influential Australian actor-actants were aware of the catastrophic disappearance of bees, but did not care. Denying that some actants have agency over others means that it is impossible to form a moral opinion about connections or about the rights of dominated actor-actants.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1
Pages (from-to)5150–5173
Number of pages23
JournalInternational Journal of Communication
Volume14
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020

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