Science as Practice and Culture explores one of the newest and most controversial developments within the rapidly changing field of science studies: the move toward studying scientific practice--the work of doing science--and the associated move toward studying scientific culture, understood as the field of resources that practice operates in and on. Andrew Pickering has invited leading historians, philosophers, sociologists, and anthropologists of science to prepare original essays for this volume. The essays range over the physical and biological sciences and mathematics, (...) and are divided into two parts. In part I, the contributors map out a coherent set of perspectives on scientific practice and culture, and relate their analyses to central topics in the philosophy of science such as realism, relativism, and incommensurability. The essays in part II seek to delineate the study of science as practice in arguments across its borders with the sociology of scientific knowledge, social epistemology, and reflexive ethnography. (shrink)
The history of British cybernetics offers us a different form of science and engineering, one that does not seek to dominate nature through knowledge. I want to say that one can distinguish two different paradigms in the history of science and technology: the one that Heidegger despised, which we could call the Modern paradigm, and another, cybernetic, nonModern, paradigm that he might have approved of. This essay focusses on work in the 1950s and early 1960s by two of Britain’s leading (...) cyberneticians, Stafford Beer and Gordon Pask, in the field of what one can call biological computing. My object is to get as clear as I can on what Beer and Pask were up to. At the end, I will discuss Beer’s hylozoist ontology of matter, mind and spirit. This material is not easy to get the hang of—but that is what one should expect from an unfamiliar paradigm. (shrink)
: This essay addresses the difficulties that sociology as a discipline continues to experience in grasping the relations between technology, science and the social. I argue that these difficulties stem from a resolute centering of sociology on the social, which follows a generically Durkheimian blueprint. I elaborate a response to these difficulties which derives from recent lines of work in science and technology studies, and which entails a decentering of the social relative to the material and the conceptual, in terms (...) of both objects of analysis and explanatory formats. In order to display the direct sociological relevance of this approach, I move to the macro level, developing the conceptual apparatus of a decentered social theory via the discussion of a historical example of major sociological significance—the systematic gearing together of scientific research, technological innovation and industrial production that originated in the synthetic dye industry in the second half of the nineteenth century. Besides the interest of the topic itself, the aim is thus to exemplify in some detail what a decentered sociology might look like, both empirically and conceptually. (shrink)
Daniel Breslau's essay opens up a valuable space in seeking to align the sociologically impure objects explored in science studies with the practice of a pure sociology. I challenge Breslau's conclusion that the latter can swallow the former and proceed with business as usual. Contrary to Breslau, I argue that confronting head-on the impure objects of science studies can indeed represent a new beginning in sociology as a discipline. I also correct Breslau's misreading of my work as "symmetrical humanism.".
Instead of considering »being with« in terms of non-problematic, machine-like places, where reliable entities assemble in stable relationships, STS conjures up a world where the achievement of chancy stabilisations and synchronisations is local. We have to analyse how and where a certain regularity and predictability in the intersection of scientists and their instruments, say, or of human individuals and groups, is produced. The paper reviews models of emergence drawn from the history of cybernetics—the canonical »black box,« homeostats, and cellular automata—to (...) enrich our imagination of the stabilisation process, and discusses the concept of »variety« as a way of clarifying its difficulty, with the antiuniversities of the 1960s and the Occupy movement as examples. Failures of »being with« are expectable. In conclusion, the paper reviews approaches to collective decision-making that reduce variety without imposing a neoliberal hierarchy. (shrink)