Taser: from object to actant? How Actor-Network Theory can advance the literature on Taser

Abi Dymond

Abstract


From police weaponry to CCTV cameras, databases to DNA analysis, technology is central to law enforcement. It is also a subject of intense controversy - not least because of the human rights benefits and risks associated with it. Yet, all too often, particular technologies remain under-theorised in the criminology literature, with serious consequences for our understanding of modern day policing. This article uses the example of the widely used electric-shock weapon the “Taser” to demonstrate some gaps in the criminology literature—which include paying insufficient attention to the technical characteristics of particular technologies and their distinct contributions, and reinforcing simplistic binary understandings of human/nonhuman and technology/society—and argues that Actor-Network Theory (ANT) can prove a useful resource in helping to correct these omissions. It provides an example of what an ANT inspired analysis of a particular technology, Taser, might look like, thus demonstrating that ANT can help construct attentive, nuanced accounts of the role of technology in policing, whilst avoiding the twin traps of social and technological determinism.

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International Journal of Criminology and Sociological Theory | ISSN : 1916-2782