Andrew Pickering (audio) drawing on Heidegger in his talk “Environmental Governance and Resilience: Enframing and poiesis in environmental management” at University of Oxford on 17 Apr 2012 . (Thanks to dmf for the link.)
Archive for the ‘Science Studies’ Category
Call for Papers: Empirical Philosophy of Science – Qualitative Methods, Sandbjerg, Denmark, March 21-23, 2012 – workshop organised by Center for Science Studies, Aarhus University. Extended Deadline: December 2, 2011.
The workshop seeks to explore the benefits and challenges of an empirical philosophy of science: What do philosophers gain from empirical work? How can empirical research help to develop philosophical concepts? How do we integrate philosophical frameworks and empirical research? What constraints do we accept when choosing an empirical approach? What constraints does a pronounced theoretical focus impose on empirical work?
- Nancy Nersessian, Georgia Institute of Technology
- Lisa Osbeck, University of West Georgia
- Erika Mansnerus, London School of Economics
- Hauke Riesch, Imperial College London
A fascinating forthcoming lecture series on the role of intellectual enemies in STS organised by Michael Guggenheim at CSISP/Department of Sociology, Goldsmiths, University of London. Latour seems to be a popular enemy…
My Best Fiend: On the Productivity of Intellectual Enmities
Fiends are productive. They spark interest, they draw our energy, we care about them and they care about us. Why do we choose this fiend and not another? How does our own thinking depend on our fiends? What are the rules and methods of our own fiendish engagements and what are the scientific fruits of them?
All Lectures Tuesdays, 4.30-6pm, Richard Hoggart Building RHB 137
1st Nov.: Liz Moore (Goldsmiths): Reflections on the Genesis of Intellectual Fiends
8th Nov.: Harry Collins (Cardiff): Good and Bad Arguments. With Friends, Idiots and People Without Integrity
6th Dec.: David Oswell (Goldsmiths): Dances with Wolves: Latour, Machiavelli and Us
13th Dec.: Steve Fuller (Warwick): Bruno Latour: and Some Notes on Some Also Rans.
“My best fiend” is a lecture series, which invites scholars to reflect on their academic enemies (from movements: Marxism, to persons: Talcott Parsons, to disciplines: anthropology, to concepts: “the other”). The goal of the series is to investigate the productivity of intellectual enmities.
Science and Technology Studies has highlighted the productive role of controversies to produce epistemic objects and sort the world. Controversies align scholars with methods, theories and schools of thought, they produce orientation in otherwise confusing seas of research. But controversies also pigeonhole people into camps. They undeservedly identify complex research identities with schools and theories and create guilt-by-association. The lecture series is calling for an analysis of such constellations by the protagonists themselves.
Enemies are productive. They spark interest, they draw energy, people care about them and they care about us. Why else would people spend time denouncing this badly formulated concept of an esteemed colleague, decrying the neighbouring discipline that keeps misunderstanding the world, or keep on writing bad tempered footnotes about this mistaken theory — and thereby become complicit in this very unproductivity? Why do scholars choose this enemy and not another?
Enemies also often involuntarily direct ones thinking, researching and theorising. If an enemy posits /a/, people feel compelled to posit /b/. If she writes approvingly of /c/, we need to denounce it. An enemy can have more power over people’s thinking than they would probably like to have it. It is as if people are guided in their thinking not only from their research object, but by an unknown field of do’s and don’t's, accumulated since the time of their studies, of where to go and look and where not to look.
The lecture series calls for analyzing the productivity of intellectual enemies. The speakers choose an enemy of their choice, and analyse his, her or its productivity for their own thinking, their research and their career. Doing so, they contribute to a new sociology of sociology. They revisit controversies and analyze them from within and beyond to engage in a sociological celebration of what they usually denounce.
Christopher Kullenberg unpacking the black box of the survey as a research instrument:
Just like the anthrax bacilli needed to get in and out of Pasteur’s laboratory, as shown in the figure above, so is the case of questionnaires that the respondents need to fill out and return to the SOM-institute. The respondents are the microbes of society, and not until they are captured and counted, they can be transformed into ‘macrobes’ that speak in the name of society as a whole. Whereas Pasteur had to travel to the countryside to get his samples, the SOM-institute is utilizing mediating actors; the questionnaires are sent via the postal system, they are gathered by the Kinnmark contractor and turned into computer readable data, which is handed over to the institute and sent further to the researchers in the involved projects. If everything goes as planned, articles and reports can be written, news media can print articles covering the findings and circulate them back out to anyone who has an interest in a society described by the social sciences. To put it in Latourian vocabulary, to say something about macro-society, the SOM-institute needs to amplify a sample of micro-society through trials of strength.
Some lovely close-ups of ants on the BBC website (and more at AntWeb). My favourite one is Camponotus darwinii, which reminds me of a horse. Although this picture is not actually of the ant but a specimen of it on a pin. (Photographer: April Nobile, AntWeb)
As Latour would say, the ant had entered into another mode of existence:
Whatever your metaphysics, you would agree that there must be a nuance between being a horse and having a tiny fraction of the horse existence made visible in the Natural History Museum. The least provocative version of this crossing point is to say that horses benefited from a mode of existence while they were alive, a mode which aimed at reproducing and “enjoying” themselves — enjoyment is Alfred North Whitehead’s expression — and that, at the intersection with paleontologists, some of their bones, hundreds of thousands of years later, happened to enter into another mode of existence once fragments of their former selves had been shunted, so to speak, into paleontological pathways. Let’s call the first mode, subsistence and the second, reference (and let’s not forget that there might be many more than two modes).
Latour, B. (2006). “A Textbook Case Revisited – Knowledge as a Mode of Existence.” [PDF]
I haven’t had the time to read through all the materials of the Beyond the PDF workshop but the whole thing is very intriguing. The main premise seems to be that the popular PDF format in which scientific articles tend to be published and disseminated these days is hindering the development of scientific knowledge. These guys for example argue that
Scientific publications are becoming more imaging and multimedia intensive. Although the publication format for scientific research papers has transitioned from printed magazines and journals to digital formats in recent years, the widely used PDF digital format lacks imaging support for high-resolution images and multimedia. Papers in PDF format available on the Internet have dramatically increased the accessibility of scientific information. However, communication of complete research data is not being realized due to the technical limitations of the PDF format.
Scientific papers in PDFs only tend to contain the final output of the research process, when contemporary technologies would already enable researchers to share many other artefacts involved in the scientific process:
What is a piece of science? That is up to a researcher but in general one can think of it as an experiment or all the things done to lead to a paper. During the course of doing a piece of science, a researcher will produce many different artifacts: data, slides, papers, experiment write-ups. For all these types of artifacts, different outlets (i.e. websites) are useful in sharing and communicating these artifacts.
The links section is also worth checking out. There is an interesting summary at the bottom of the page about the pros and cons of PDF.
Donald Favareau’s 8-minute summary (scroll down to the bottom of the page for his segment) of biosemiotics on the BBC World Service did remind me of actor-network theory (Ivakhiv already picked up on this) and indeed of Harman’s object-oriented philosophy (although Favareau seems to exclude situations involving inanimate objects such as a hand hitting the table or fire encountering water). What was the most revealing however was the other participants’ reaction to Favareau’s proposition that let’s say an amoeba can interpret signs and perceive its food source as some form of meaning. The biologist thought that this was a projection of human categories onto animals, which she felt uncomfortable with, while the sociologist’s reaction was that philosophy is concerned with human sign systems, not with stimulus response. Favareau’s book looks interesting (though quite pricey).