Technology, Culture, Education: (Ethno-)Methodology for (de-)constructing human production
This page was composed by Aaron Hung on the basis for the lectures notes as they were in the Summer 2008. I want to thank him for the work. I am making some changes for the Summer 2009. The notes on the main web site for the course will generally be more up to date.
Everyone is welcome to use and edit these pages, perhaps on the basis of your own notes (since sometimes I do not follow my own notes).
Link to Professor Varenne's notes for this course.
- Technology: possibility and determination?
- (Ethno-)Methodology for (de)constructing human production
- Human (dis-)abilities: expansions through tools and institutions
- Hoes, plows and familial strategies
- Irrigation: Power and social structure
- The power of the printed word
- Possibilities in print: Play and control
- Industrialization I: The imagination of the machines
- Industrialization II: The experience of machines
- Living with the bomb
- The body and the machine
- Further reading
- Latour, Bruno and Steve Woolgar (1986) Laboratory life: The construction of scientific facts. Princeton: Princeton University Press. (Chapter 1, 2, postscript)
Pre-class discussion: Facebook
- being educated about social pressure to join Facebook
- friends who are part of the network might pressure you to join
- fictional portraits of everyday reality, e.g. The Wire
- reaction papers should be short and quick, more like informal papers (500-1000 words)
- major paper should be about 15 pages (make sure you include page numbers!)
- topic should be one of interest to you; how does it fit into the course
- if you have an idea or proposal, bring it up to Professor Varenne during office hours
How do you study technology?
- it is an object that has its possibilities and constraints; how do you study it?
- similar to chicken and egg problem
- which comes first: the technology or the industry (e.g. computers or Silicon Valley)?
- Carl Sagan's documentary on the evolution of computers and technology (Cosmos?)
- first computer is some sort of water-based system built by Romans
- clocks are a kind of "program" that tells time, or plays music
- some adapted clock design to looms
- Turing given credit for developing principle that has existed before
- computer needs to handle new information (input-output)
- usually not a linear causality but a circular relationship
- our response to global warming is not a response to nature but to history
- none of this happen automatically; you have to be taught how to use technologies or adapt it to your environment or needs
- apparent compliance does not tell you anything about acceptance or understanding
- negative feedback: e.g. thermostat tells when the air conditioner or heater to turn on and off
- positive feedback: when the system reacts positively to all feedback, and leads to destruction of system
- related: game theory, complexity or chaos theory
- you return to a different level of equilibrium
- first time you use a new technology, you might be tempted to use it as something that you are familiar with (e.g. using computer as typewriter)
- sounds like Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point; but it still requires a lot of deliberation
- most other theories treat it as if it appears below consciousness
- education not the only thing that happens in schools
- sociology reopens the question of what happens in schools, and who decides what happens
Sociology of Science
- should scientists know the history of their study and how it was developed over time
- history of science had made scientists nervous
- these studies start raising idea that you cannot do science alone
- sociocultural conditions of your doing science influenced the science you produce
- Latour and Woolgar:
- one of the first to study scientists in laboratories
- treated labs as if they were strange, exotic places
- labs create a lot of document output
- inscription devices: measurement machines that transform facts from "raw format" into written form
- some measurements occur in particular spaces
- requires extensive filling and organization system
- reminds me of the anonymous quote: "The bureaucracy is expanding to meet the needs of the expanding bureaucracy"
- scientists have to eventually agree to stop disagreeing about a "fact"
Science in Action
- "The DNA molecule has the shape of a double helix" (a statement)
- The DNA molecule has the shape of a double helix (a fact)
- when the statement was first made, people were arguing about what the shape looked like
- others thought it was wrong, or pointless
- some agreed it because it would be pretty
- as the scientific community settle on a resolution, the debate disappears and it becomes established knowledge
- fact will generate new forms of ideas and lines of inquiries
- interpreted the work of Latour on others to devalue science
- science becomes something akin to religion, or extreme relativism
- if truth has to be independent of human experience, then there is no longer truth
- deconstructionism and postmodern discourse critique the existence of Science
- Idealism: we cannot be sure that we perceive the world as it exists; thus we do not really exist (or cannot verify it)
- constructivism: a mild version of this idea
- a form of doing sociology
- Garfinkel: wrote about the details of doing everyday life, or how to you pass as a female
- wrote on Agnes, a transsexual who had to perform "female" in everyday life
- not simply the act of wearing female outfits
- think of the movie Tootsie
- tell you that things are "made up"; doesn't mean they do not exist
- these have to be performed constantly
- also reminds me of the movie Catch me if you can
- Boorstin, D. J. (1991). The discoverers. New York: H.N. Abrams. ISBN 0394726251
- Fleck, L. (1979) The genesis and development of a scientific fact. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0226253252
- Kaplan, A. (1964). The conduct of inquiry: Methodology for behavioral science. San Francisco: Chandler Pub. Co. ISBN 0765804484
- Kaufman, F. (1944) Methodology of the social sciences. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Kuhn, T. S. (1962). The structure of scientific revolutions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0226458083
- Latour, B. (1987). Science in action: How to follow scientists and engineers through society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0674792912
- Pratkanis, A. R., & Aronson, E. (2001). Age of propaganda: The everyday use and abuse of persuasion (Rev. ed.). New York: W.H. Freeman. ISBN 0805074031
- Pickering, A. (1999) Constructing quarks: A sociological history of particle physics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0226667995
- Watson, J. D. (1980). The double helix: A personal account of the discovery of the structure of DNA. New York: Atheneum. ISBN 074321630X
- In New York City, Two Versions of End-of-Life Care
- New York Times Article pointing out the different types of care that patients at the end of their lives receive in public and elite private hospitals.
- The Sokal Hoax
- Allan Sokal plays a devastating joke against the postmodern critique of science studies in the 1990s, leading to what has been dubbed the "Science Wars"