Chapter 1 FROM ORDER TO DISORDER 5 mins. John enters and goes into his office. He says something very quickly about having made a bad mistake. He had sent the review of a paper. . . . The rest of the sentence is inaudible. 5 mins.
This article examines how the special theoretical significance of the sociology of scientific knowledge is affected by attempts to apply relativist-constructivism to technology. The article shows that the failure to confront key analytic ambivalences in the practice of SSK has compromised its original strategic significance. In particular, the construal of SSK as an explanatory formula diminishes its potential for profoundly reconceptualizing epistemic issues. A consideration of critiques of technological determinism, and of some empirical studies, reveals similar analytic ambivalences in the (...) social study of technology. The injunction to consider "technology as text" is critically examined. It is concluded that a reflexive interpretation of this slogan is necessary to recover some of the epistemological significance lost in the constructivist move from SSK to SST. (shrink)
Over the past decades commercial and academic market researchers have studied consumers through a range of different methods including surveys, focus groups, or interviews. More recently, some have turned to the growing field of neuroscience to understand consumers. Neuromarketing employs brain imaging, scanning, or other brain measurement technologies to capture consumers’ responses to marketing stimuli and to circumvent the “problem” of relying on consumers’ self-reports. This paper presents findings of an ethnographic study of neuromarketing research practices in one neuromarketing consultancy. (...) Our access to the minutiae of commercial neuromarketing research provides important insights into how neuromarketers silence the neuromarketing test subject in their experiments and presentations and how they introduce the brain as an unimpeachable witness. This enables us conceptually to reconsider the role of witnesses in the achievement of scientific credibility, as prominently discussed in science and technology studies. Specifically, we probe the role witnesses and silences play in establishing and maintaining credibility in and for “commercial research laboratories.” We propose three themes that have wider relevance for STS researchers and require further attention when studying newly emerging research fields and practices that straddle science and its commercial application. (shrink)
Whereas many constructivist and feminist approaches to the social study of technology share an antipathy to technological tietenninism, they offer an insufficiently radical critique of technolagy. Three main problems in "anti-essentialist" critiques of techno logical determinism are identified, all of which mean that such critiques remain committed to a form of essentialism. These characteristics recur in many recent feminist arguments about technology, illustrated by the example of reproductive technologies. To overcome weaknesses in political radicalism based on anti-essentialism, it is necessary (...) to move to a "past-essentialist" approach. The unwillingness to do so is shown to be based on unfounded objections to "excessive" relativism. (shrink)
The excellent contributions to this special issue are organized around a duality between sociality and materiality. They argue for greater emphasis on materiality. This article reflects upon what sustains the dichotomy between sociality and materiality, noting in particular the importance of the use and management of boundaries. The article asks whether and how dichotomies themselves might fruitfully become the target of social science analysis.
This paper reflects on the origins and subsequent reception of the paper "Ontological Gerrymandering: The anatomy of social problems explanations", published in 1985. It describes the circumstances of my turning up at McGill University as a Visiting Professor in Sociology and meeting Dorothy, then a graduate student and the TA assigned to an undergraduate course on Social Problems which I was asked to teach. The paper reflects on the twin benefits: of an interloper, from Europe and from Science and Technology (...) Studies, entering the exotic and heady fray of North American social problems; and of Dorothys steady and resolute guidance in introducing me to a new field. The paper suggests some reasons for the endurance of the papers arguments, more than 35 years after its publication, drawing on some parallel developments in Social Problems and STS. It asks why has there been rather little mutual interaction between these disciplines, given their common concern with questions, among others, about values, effects and interventions in academic scholarship. The paper concludes that many more of us might have done well to pursue the path of strident agnosticism. (shrink)
Steve Fuller's social epistemology aims to integrate the philosophy of science and sociology of science, and to enhance the ability of these disciplines to contribute to science policy. While applauding the re?vitalizing energy of the enterprise, a sociological perspective requires attention to four key aspects of the programme. First, the character of interdisciplinarity requires careful specification, lest the critical dynamic of social studies of science be compromised by calls to pluralism. Second, social epistemology can and should transcend the traditional epistemological (...) attribution of positions ('positionism') to protagonists. Third, the argumentative dynamic of social studies of science, which enables the successive reconceptualization of ?epistemic? matters, suggests some problems for social epistemology's use of ?sociological results?. Finally, social epistemology requires a more sociologically informed understanding of what in practice counts as normative research, since the current programme trades upon unexamined conceptions of policy audience. (shrink)