This presentation, co-authored with Mahin Raissi and Bethaney Turner, critically engages with the Actor-network theory notion 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 operationalize the gathering together of matters of concern by mapping how similar Australian and Canadian bee-related websites connected to issues such as ‘colony-collapse’. Our symmetrical hypothesis is that major differences in Australian and Canadian geographies and exposure to parasites will lead to different rates of connection. This hypothesis is confirmed: all influential Canadian websites connected to ‘colony-collapse’, whilst no influential Australian websites did. Our findings also suggest an asymmetrical explanation: influential Australian bee-related websites were aware of the catastrophic disappearance of bees, but did not care. Denying some actor-actants have agency over others means it is impossible to form a moral opinion about connections, or about the rights of dominated actor-actants.
Dr Mathieu O'Neil is Associate Professor of Communication at the University of Canberra’s News & Media Research Centre, where he leads the Critical Conversations Lab. His research focuses on the communicational, political-economic and organisational aspects of commons-based and oriented peer production, such as free and open source software. He is currently leading an international team investigating the co-production of free and open source software by firms and projects as well as how this co-production is represented in IT media (Critical Digital Infrastructure Fund, Sloan and Ford Foundations, 2019-2020). He has played a key role in developing the field of peer production studies by founding the Journal of Peer Production; editing four issues of this journal; and being lead editor of a Handbook of Peer Production (Wiley, 2020). He has also made significant contributions to the development of innovative online research methods and concepts through his work with the ANU's Virtual Observatory for the Study of Online Networks, a world leader in computational social science, web science, and big data analytics. He was a member of the team which obtained ARC grant SR0567298, a Special Research Initiative (e-Research Support) to set up the Observatory. His subsequent research on social movements, risk issue diffusion and the adoption of innovation in the online environment brought together conceptual frameworks such as social network analysis and the sociologies of fields and controversies. The quality of this research was recognised when he and his co-author Robert Ackland, were awarded the 2012 Communication, Information Technologies, and Media Sociology (CITAMS) section of the American Sociological Association Paper Award. They are the sole recipients outside North America of the CITAMS Paper Award, which recognises an ‘outstanding published paper or book chapter related to the sociology of communications or the sociology of information technology’. His research has been published in two books and in peer-reviewed journals such as Social Networks, Information, Communication & Society, Réseaux, New Media and Society, and Organization Studies, amongst others. He previously held academic appointments at the Université Stendhal - Grenoble 3, the Australian National University and the Université Paris Sorbonne. He has also worked as a magazine editor and exhibition curator in Singapore, and as a researcher for the Australian Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy.