Findings follow framings: Navigating the empirical turn [Book Review]

Synthese 168 (3):357 - 375 (2009)
In this paper, I outline several methodological questions that we need to confront. The chief question is how can we identify the nature of technological change and its varied cultural consequences—including social, political, institutional, and economic dimensions—when our different research methods, using distinct ‘levels’ or ‘scales’ of analysis, yield contradictory results. What can we say, in other words, when our findings about technology follow from the framings of our inquiries? In slightly different terms, can we combine insights from the fine-grained “social shaping of technology” as well as from complementary approaches accenting the “technological shaping of society?” As a way forward, I will suggest conducting multi-scale inquiries into the processes of technological and cultural change. This will involve recognizing and conceptualizing the analytical scales or levels on which we conduct inquiry (very roughly, micro, meso, macro) as well as outlining strategies for moving within and between these scales or levels. Of course we want and need diverse methodologies for analyzing technology and culture. I find myself in sympathy with geographer Brenner (New state spaces: urban governance and the rescaling of statehood, 2004, p. 7), who aspires to a “theoretically precise yet also historically specific conceptualization of [technological change] as a key dimension of social, political and economic life.”.
Keywords Historiography of technology  Scale  Social constructivism  Agency-structure problem
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DOI 10.2307/40271253
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E. J. Hobsbawm (1969). Industry and Empire. Science and Society 33 (2):248-254.

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