ABSTRACT

How power is created and dispersed in a network is the central question of this chapter. Power is an enduring issue in a political economy of communication. Political economists usually see power as negative because they associate it with concepts such as domination and subordination, control, and surveillance. Political economists tend to think power resides with only individuals and organizations, although some have begun to explore how it resides with algorithms (Bilić, 2018). Therefore, an ANT approach may challenge a political-economic conceptualization of power by pointing out that people and organizations are only powerful when they are associated in networks. People and organizations on their own cannot be powerful. The more connections individuals and organizations have in a network, the more powerful they are (Latour, 2005). Networks not only make individuals and organizations powerful, but they also give individuals and organizations visibility when their names are included on websites generated in search results. Individuals with less power have fewer connections in networks, which in turn render them invisible. In this chapter, we consider how power is generated and distributed in three types of networks (ownership of corporations, boards of directors, and lobbying). Network visualization illustrates how powerful individuals and organizations connect with each other. In the following, I first discuss how a political economy of communication conceptualizes power, then I discuss how Actor-Network Theory (ANT) sees it. I conclude by suggesting how this chapter conceptualizes the concept.