Have you ever heard about the Actor-Network Theory? Actor-Network Theory (ANT) is an approach to social theory. It was originally created by French scholars Bruno Latour and Michel Callon, and is an attempt to understand processes of technological innovation and scientific knowledge-creation. ANT is distinguished by its consideration of nonhuman actors in a social network besides human actors. Hence, in order to fully understand a social network we must consider all of the nonhuman elements by giving them the exact same attention we give to humans.
What are these nonhuman elements? They can be artifacts, organization structures, even your own computer! Everything! Everything that is connected to our environment, to our network. In this splendid TEDTalk of Barbara Natterson-Horowitz you will hear more about a one specific nonhuman… the animal.
Humans rely on animals in many ways since forever! We use dogs for hunting, we use horses for riding, we use oxen for plowing, we use pigeons for communication. We trust them with our loved ones, we let them guide people with disabilities. We keep them as pets, we exploit them for our diet, we use them for pre-testing innovations and, last but not least, as models in biological and medical research. And most importantly? We rely on them to maintain the ecological balance.
Besides the practical side of the matter, think about the role of the cats in ancient Egypt and how they were considered sacred in their society. Nowadays, some of us won’t even eat dairy products because of our ethical belief systems. Think about the eagles and how they are being taken as a favorite identification symbol for rulers! We even turn to animals to draw strength and inspiration. According to Barbara Natterson-Horowitz we can also turn to them when we are ill and thus to veterinarians!
However, even if we claim that we are a part of the animal kingdom and we are no more special than any other species, equal among the other creatures on this planet, how many of us do not feel a bit exceptional when we listen to Mozart or when we look at the photos of the Mars Rover on our MacBooks? Natterson-Horowitz questions just that!
About her: Natterson-Horowitz is a cardiologist at the UCLA Medical Center, who also had the chance to treat many animals living in zoos. As it was suggested by ANT, she tries to move beyond a dichotomous approach to human-animal relations. She believes in one thing – if we manage to see our nonhuman fellows as our equals there is a big opportunity out there to understand and to cure our illnesses. Especially the mental ones, as we even share the same disorders with animals. She invites us to see this biological connection… She invites us to get in touch with our own animal nature.
In her talk you can find out how our ways of thinking can create an obstacle for the scientific development of healing methods.
What do you think? What makes us unique as humans? Are we really the superior species?
Watch her TEDTalk about her work and let her passion inspire you!
Photo credits to Pixabay