According to the Merriam Webster online dictionary assemblage refers to a ‘collection of persons or things’. This definition stands true when we relate the word to publishing. When we examine publishing and its relation to society we are presented with a number of different ‘collections’ of concepts and physical ‘things’. Both concepts and ‘things’ are components of the Actor-network theory (ANT) which was devised by Michel Callon, John Law and Bruno Latour. In turn, when we look to the work of Manuel De Landa we can categorise each element in ANT and better analyse each component.
According to Wikipedia, the Actor-network theory aims to determine the relationship between materials; that is ‘things’, and semiotics, or rather, concepts. These two elements form together to create a network. With this explanation in mind we can assert that in terms of publishing the network consists of the actual published work (things) and the relationship it has with the media consumer (concepts). When creating a publication not only is there the actual content, but the content creators who devised the work, the ideas created by these creators, the publishers who release it, the people who consume the media and so on. When we break down the assemblage in such a manner, we can further categorise each ‘thing’ and concept into actants. That is, human and non-human actors. ANT asserts that there is no difference between the abilities of human and non-human actors and thus each is as significant as the other. This is referred to as generalised symmetry.
Generalised symmetry sounds good in theory, after all in publishing every element be it human or non human, ‘thing’ or concept works together to create a publication. However there are obviously some components of an assemblage which require more attention and focus than others. Therefore the notion of examining each component within an ANT network is present within De Landas ‘A New Philosophy of Society: Assemblage Theory and Social Complexity’. De Landa believes that each component should be defined by its role within the larger picture. For example in publishing the creation of the content would play one of the largest roles and thus should be defined in a larger manner than other elements. In turn, De Landa suggests that each component can be removed and added to another assemblage without losing its identity. In some ways this again can be related to publishing, as if we use the creation of content example again one article could be removed from one publication and quite easily be added to another without any serious issues.
In regard to publishing an assemblage refers to a collection of the ‘things’, concepts, and human and non-human actants that make up a publication. The manner in which these elements are defined and categorised can vary depending on which theory is applied. However no matter which way one approaches it, a publication is a mix of many different components each one adding its overall value.