The concept of actant is derived from the Actor Network Theory of Latour. Actants can be divided in different families. Each family of actants shares particular characteristics in its involvement in interactions. Several actants can be substituted for one another. Not recognizing the foundations of the actants nurtures poor reuse and non-interoperabilities. Not recognizing substitution options results in perpetuating obsolete content practices that are harmful to the environment and act as hurdles to transparancy and learning.
Besides principals that can operate in many different roles, there are a number of other actant families addressed in the Actant Dictionary, such as:
- Document: A document is a proof, traditionally kept on a piece of paper with content, that gives evidence of a past or future transaction, or of the entitlement during some period of time of a named Principal to a bundle of rights, restrictions or responsibilities regarding an institution object. participates in socio-economic interactions during its lifetime.
- Service: A system that is capable to store and retrieve information, including for answering questions on past, current or future states-of-affairs in worksystems, or on decisions and transformations involving worksystems.
- Device: A system that is capable of performing work, of accepting inputs (key board), of sensing of a state-of-affairs in a worksystem, and the changing of the state-of-affairs via actuators or displays.
- Component: A component is a software programme that is capable of performing specific information processing tasks in which it exchanges messages with other components.