Latour's Hotel Keys: An Actor-Network Ontology


  • Shawn Goodwin Semantic Arts
  • Evan Kuehn North Park University



This project is a reintroduction of an illustration used by Bruno Latour in the essay “Technology is Society Made Durable,” of a hotel manager who creates programs to increase customer compliance in returning their room keys. Verbal reminder, signage, and a weighted key fob are non-human actants that relate to customers such that customers either return keys (i.e., follow the program) or fail to return keys (i.e. follow the anti-program). Latour’s network description is not grounded in an ontology, and we propose to create a small ontology using the open specifications of RDF, OWL, and SKOS in order to model it. The point of this project is to provide a robust, usable, and versatile framework for doing actor-network analysis, and to champion an approach to non-human actants characteristic of Actor-Network Theory (ANT) as also helpful for understanding systems. The interaction between knowledge organization and ANT has been limited, but should be explored further. ANT operates under certain implied ontological commitments concerning common properties of human and non-human entities as actants, and of relationships as formative of actant identities. In our project we will explore an ontology model for Latour’s Hotel Keys and briefly discuss the lessons that this simple actor-network model provides for knowledge organization.