What about the epistemological contribution of the nonhumans I wondered? Leaving aside the potentially emotive discussion of animals in research for a moment, I’m not going to claim that nonhumans should be part of our ethical discussions; they’re not likely to care whether we call them subjects or participants. Actor-network theory troubles the dichotomous distinctions of subject and object or researcher and researched. If we think instead of the assemblage of which the research output is part, then the researcher/participant/interviewee, the media through which they interact, the data they generate, the reflections which are made and the texts which emerge, all influence one another. They are all entangled or interwoven, jointly responsible, more or less, in the production of the thesis, book or article. The output is not seen as the culmination of a linear sequence of events in which different actors participated at different times, but as an interwoven, performed assemblage. Named or not, all those who contributed to or collaborated in my research will be present in my thesis assemblage, intimately bound there by virtue of their ontological contribution. source
This reminds me of the research into lurkers and their role online.