Archive for the ‘Science Studies’ Category

Enframing and poiesis: Andrew Pickering on environmental governance

6 July 2012

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.)

Videos of recent Latour talks

21 April 2012
  • Watch video: “Ecological Crises, Digital Humanities and New Political Assemblies,” Azim Premji University, 23 March 2012
  • Watch video: “Reenacting Science,” Science Gallery, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, 20 February 2012
  • Watch video: “From Critique to Composition,” Dublin City University, 17 February 2012

CfP: Empirical Philosophy of Science

17 November 2011

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?

Keynote Speakers:

  • Nancy Nersessian, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Lisa Osbeck, University of West Georgia
  • Erika Mansnerus, London School of Economics
  • Hauke Riesch, Imperial College London

The Productivity of Intellectual Enmities

20 October 2011

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.

Dr. Michael Guggenheim

A new book on Bruno Latour

30 July 2011

Anders Blok and Torben Elgaard Jensen’s book on Latour has now come out in English: Bruno Latour: Hybrid Thoughts in a Hybrid World, published by Routledge. (The original Danish version came out in 2009, the same year in which Harman’s Prince of Networks was published.)

French sociologist and philosopher, Bruno Latour, is one of the most significant and creative thinkers of the last decades. Bruno Latour: Hybrid Thoughts in a Hybrid World is the first comprehensive and accessible English-language introduction to this multi-faceted work. The book focuses on core Latourian themes:

  • contribution to science studies (STS – Science, Technology & Society)
  • philosophical approach to the rise and fall of modernity
  • innovative thoughts on politics, nature, and ecology
  • contribution to the branch of sociology known as ANT – Actor-Network Theory.

With ANT, Latour has pioneered an approach to socio-cultural analysis built on the notion that social life arise in complex networks of actants – people, things, ideas, norms, technologies, and so on – influencing each other in dynamic ways. This book explores how Latour helps us make sense of the changing interrelations of science, technology, society, nature, and politics beyond modernity.


  1. On the Trails of Bruno Latour’s Hybrid World
  2. Anthropology of Science
  3. Philosophy of Modernity
  4. Political Ecology
  5. Sociology of Associations
  6. Conclusion: The Enlightenment Project of Bruno Latour
  7. ‘We would like to do a bit of science studies with you…’ An Interview with Bruno Latour

On blackboxing

21 June 2011

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.

Ant close-up

14 May 2011

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]

Beyond the PDF (and books and journal articles)

17 January 2011

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.


Imagining Business 2

22 December 2010

Submission deadline extended to 15 January 2011 for the 2nd EIASM Workshop on Imagining Business, focusing on “VISUALS & PERFORMATIVITY: RESEARCHING BEYOND TEXT,” to take place in Segovia, Spain, 19-20 May 2011.

Following the success of the 1st Imagining Business Workshop in Oxford, 2008, this second event seeks to examine ideas and approaches which go beyond a focus upon text in order to explore the impact of images, pictures, signs, sounds and passions on the process of organizing. A process which also goes beyond traditional ideas of business and into many areas of our lives.

By bringing together academics from a wide range of disciplines and approaches (e.g. organizational theory, accounting, anthropology, geography, art, sociology, communication studies, architecture, philosophy, social studies of technology, etc…), this event will provide an arena in which to discuss and debate different ways of imagining the complex process of organizing.

Special Guest Speakers are:

  • Mario Biagioli – Harvard University – History of science
  • Jacques Fontanille – Université de Limoges – Semiotics
  • Nigel Thrift (TBC)- University of Warwick – Geography

The Organising Committee members are Paolo Quattrone – IE Business School, François-Régis Puyou – Audencia, Nantes School of Management and Chris Mclean – Manchester Business School.


20 December 2010

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).