Social constructionist stuff (interpersonal, relational, ethical), but hive off the “medical” stuff (natural, factual, the scientific)
The difference is that the uncertainties are all waiting for further research to get “the answer” – yet (the key word). The social/bioethical/organizational remains open to change. Rock solid knowledge vs. shifting sands, and the world is divided between them.
It is thus difficult to escape this dichotomizing.
For example, illness vs. disease. Disease has a natural reoccurring, objective, whereas the illness is all the lived experience etc. Some form of this dichotomization is hard to overcome.
Naturalism vs. Phenomenological (Alfred Schutz). At most, people in the 1960s were willing to grant this difference. Naturalism was defended as being amenable to the positivism, seeking to uncover “facts.” Once you discovered them correctly, they were the essential properties of things. On the other hand, the ever changing world of impressions, meanings. How people feel about things, and end up with this bifurcation.
Even then, this bifurcation was objected to. 1890s, read Husserl’s logical investigations (beginning of phenomenology): there isn’t two spheres, even the work of math is the work of consciousness. The intentional relation to the world is total. Always relating the world. Phenomenology along the way tended to lose that and hold out for the smaller piece of the pie. The deal that certain spheres were appropriate to the “soft sciences” – that very term designed to mark this bifurcation. Science of the natural world – clear, objective. Otherwise, studying ourselves. We can be good instruments of observation, but we become compromised observers when we are looking at ourselves.
This course looks at the adequacy of this deal. If we refuse this split, refuse to hive off the “medical” or the “physics” and insist on a unity of these things, what are the implications? What does this mean for our methods, the crucial part involving the claims you can make proceeding this way. The culmination is some number of claims for what it is that a work of social science advances.
The claim may be “I went there, this is what I saw” – or – “this is the causal relationship” – but at the end of the day, you are making some kind of claim. The whole point of methodology is how you support your claim to be credible, compelling – readable (as opposed to objectionable).
Refuse this old fashioned split. Goes way back.
Leviathan and the Air Pump by Shapin and Schaffer
In the aftermath of the English Civil War, as people were groping for new forms of political order, Robert Boyle built an air-pump to do experiments. Does the story of Roundheads and Restoration have something to do with the origins of experimental science? Schaffer and Shapin believed it does.
Focusing on the debates between Boyle and his archcritic Thomas Hobbes over the air-pump, the authors proposed that “solutions to the problem of knowledge are solutions to the problem of social order.” Both Boyle and Hobbes were looking for ways of establishing knowledge that did not decay into ad hominem attacks and political division. Boyle proposed the experiment as cure. He argued that facts should be manufactured by machines like the air-pump so that gentlemen could witness the experiments and produce knowledge that everyone agreed on. Hobbes, by contrast, looked for natural law and viewed experiments as the artificial, unreliable products of an exclusive guild.
The new approaches taken in Leviathan and the Air-Pump have been enormously influential on historical studies of science. Shapin and Schaffer found a moment of scientific revolution and showed how key scientific givens–facts, interpretations, experiment, truth–were fundamental to a new political order. Shapin and Schaffer were also innovative in their ethnographic approach. Attempting to understand the work habits, rituals, and social structures of a remote, unfamiliar group, they argued that politics were tied up in what scientists did, rather than what they said.
People didn’t stay in the boxes that we put them into. They did a little of everything.
Epistemology vs Ontology
Epistemology: the study of how we know. How is knowledge possible? It is a Platonic concern (the climax of the Republic, Plato speaking through Socrates presents a hierarchy of the sciences, the knowledge of “essences” at the top and phenomenology is at the bottom. Impressions are the work of little people who go through live unseriously)
Ontology: the problem of being. What are the different kinds of being. What is it to be? Heidegger – why is their being at all, as opposed to simply non being.
These are regarded as distinct, but gradually merged into ontological and epistemological questions.
First question: What is a fact?
This is the message of Ludwik Fleck in Genesis and Development of Scientific Facts.
Prior thought: Facts were there, waiting to be discovered (science). How can there be genesis and development? What does it imply for the kind of science that participates in and studies processes for producing facts (the Platonist is tearing his hair out). Facts aren’t produced! They are RECOGNIZED! iPod’s are produced! Facts aren’t iPods! Facts are either right or wrong, and invariant. What extent can we think of them as being produced.
Second question: What do we mean by social construction?
Social science don’t examine how the mountains came to be, study how the ski resort did. Pretty clear the difference. In some ways “social construction” is the rational for the social sciences: we study what people put together (prison, philosophy, works of art).
What gets constructed? What doesn’t? What is this process of construction about? All of which will lead us to the limits of construction as a metaphor (and clearly it is a metaphor). In reading Hacking’s Social Construction of What?, looking at the sociology of the sciences vs. Latour. Hacking finds Latour a bit of a gadfly, and his project is to contrast. (Interesting that Hacking got the Foucault chair instead of Latour).
Third question: Helen Verran’s ethnography Science and an African Knowledge (Admired by John Law) is the core activity of social science. Methods get themselves in trouble because they are not grounded in ethnography. “You gotta know the territory” – this is ethnography – the vocabulary, the practice of the people you are engaged in studying. Requires spending time “there.” Feeling what it is to be “there.” The trouble with other methodologies is the short cuts.
Ethnography of knowledge, what people know and how they reproduce that knowledge. Fleck: why do we need a notion of an invariant? Verran’s book is a response to this.
Finally: How do we understand stories as actors? As a non-human actor. Think of Harroway’s companion species manifesto. Humans breed companion species to do certain kinds of work for people. A dog is not a naturally occuring entity. Dogs are, in a sense, socially constructed. Humans exist in our form due to the work of our companion species. The herding, plowing that dogs, horses, oxen. We are of the stature we are because of our companion species. They have created us.
Mutually dependent autonomy. (Art Frank). This is the oxymoron related to stories. Stories need humans for telling, but humans may need stories even more for all kinds of telling found in the world. What are stories among other kinds of narrative? What are the work they do as a companion species? How do stories make life social, given that life only becomes social from doing various kinds of things. In doing these kinds of things, they make use of non-human actors. Non-human actors take up the relays, and life becomes social in these relays. The non-human actors are crucial in taking up the relays. Stories return us to the same questions. How do they work in terms of social construction? How are stories a problem for methodology – how do you go about studying them.
Four ideas of Actor-Network theory (ANT).
Some theory/methods where the name is decided by the founder – example, institutional ethnography is Dorothy’s term. In ANT, there isn’t a clear founder, and there is controversy in the title, and so it is up for grabs. Anglo ANT vs. Franco ANT (but in Franco, Callon’s ANT is a variant from Latour’s ANT).
There are no groups, only perpetual acts of assemblage. Groups are always doing the work of keeping the group together. The proper study of sociology is not to take the group as a pre-existing, instead, what has to be studied is the work that is done to hold the group together, and with what kind of “stickyness.” What does this stickyness accomplish?
The social, for Latour, is always in the act of assembling, and there is no thing in “the social.” The social is always going on, and the work of social science is to drop in and see how it is proceeding, and getting done in particular times and places.
Fabrication mechanisms. The world is full of these, as this is what makes the world social. They are mechanisms, techniques, technologies that fabricate. Turn thread into fabric that holds together. Whatever you got is a fabrication: what are the mechanisms that do the building. The holding together.
The trouble with “system” is that once upon a time it was fabricated, and then continues un-manned. One decided upon design that we can admire. Elias: no system, processes. The processes are always a near-thing. Every act of fabricating has a potential to failure. Often much closer to falling apart. Whatever it is, it is the work of fabricating, and they either work r they don’t.
One reason to believe this: Decline of Nixon, breaking up of the Soviet Union. You always expected the country to be there. Can’t take seriously the problem of holding this thing together. Still living in this fall out. These have undermined the sense of solidity. See things as more transient, even things that appear “there” in “reality.” If people don’t get up every day and do the maintenance work in keeping relationships whole, then things fall apart.
Fleck: the sea, a definitional point, the lowest collection point of the sea. Paddle to the Sea. Sea is the end point. But this isn’t so, no boundaries between one ocean and another. The ocean is that which water descends to. How it got there isn’t an issue, it is what it is.
Elias: Process sociology, a course and a sequel to Elias. As opposed to Durkheim who hovers at the edge of this (but he wants to see things in and of themselves, remove the process).
The research question: whatever you are studying, what are the fabrication mechanisms. How is the assembling done, with what? Takes us back to the non-human actors. In this department, the assembling is done by email, reminding us that we are part of the same assemblage. The relays are taken up by electronic messaging.
The best time to study something is the moment of controversy. Relations that otherwise get passed into un-observability become visible.
What does the moment of controversy allow us to see? Allows us to see the relevant actors, what the relays are, what the translation of locally produced realities to other sites. A site is a locality that produces reality. Sites are “hooked up” with other sites, which requires translation. How are issues in one site translated into other sites?
Sociology of translation, the core of ANT. Not translation in the sense of language, we call it this, you call it that. Translation reflects different forms of life. Mol: find different forms of life. People are living differently. Words are inherently tied to different forms of life. The social is translation of power, because one sites version wins out over another sites.
How does a reality produced in one site made compatible (for what practical purposes) with contrasting and contesting versions of that same thing produced in other sites. Have all these sites, all producing realities. These sites have to hook up to be made compatible. This can fail (crucial).
4. Distribution of action
Sociology of distributed action. How is action distributed, and with what (companion species). If you have a sheep dog, you are distributing the action of herding the sheep. Disabilities studies: various aides: perpetually breaking down, having to be renewed, always controversies about how the action is distributed. Under no illusion that they are acting themselves. “I am actually doing this.” Need something to help get it done, and acutely aware of how it changes their purpose in the course of using this.
All of this goes back to: is the table an actor? Yes, but until there is a controversy surrounding it, it will be impossible to study it because it won’t say anything. It leaves no traces. We go back to controversies, because action tends to be distributed so thoughtlessly until we get the disruption. Until we get new tools (like a new table), the distribution is hard to get at.
ANT is important because we live in a world that is the upgrade society. A new iPod every 14 months. We are having to perpetually redistribute our action through new relays that impose themselves on us. “Didn’t you get my message?” The world we are a part of. ANT is perfect for a world where the relays change every 18th month. \
How does action get distributed, and though what? What are the effects of these distribution actors? MSN, Email, Canada Post: what are the effects of these in SHAPING what proceeds. We don’t just breed dogs: they breed us. How does an actor come to be as it is, as a result of how its action is distributed. The way we are depends on HOW we are.
Latour’s opposition to “textbook science” – removes the process.
Wasserman Reaction: a blood test to detect Syphilis. Entity is present or not present. Syphilis already exists. A positive reaction, and therefore (?) syphilitic impression.
Certain, yes. Just relatively certain. Like to think they are certain that the airplane will stay in the air. Not – they are relatively certain.
Journal science still presents controversies. The textbook science comes up with consensus statements. A problem is discussed from the journal articles, and at the end you have a panel who put together a consensus statement that will issue a statement that will help sort out differences of opinions. This then has evidentially power that is one greater than a journal articles. Similar to meta-analysis. Decide what to keep and what to throw out – how to synthesize the results of this to tell you if these are true, reliable or evidence based.
Theories are not disproven – the thought collective moves on. (They rust).
“Perhaps this book will be understood only by someone who has himself already had the thoughts that are expressed in it–or at least similar thoughts.–So it is not a textbook.–Its purpose would be achieved if it gave pleasure to one person who read and understood it. The book deals with the problems of philosophy, and shows, I believe, that the reason why these problems are posed is that the logic of our language is misunderstood.
The whole sense of the book might be summed up the following words: what can be said at all can be said clearly, and what we cannot talk about we must pass over in silence. Thus the aim of the book is to draw a limit to thought, or rather–not to thought, but to the expression of thoughts: for in order to be able to draw a limit to thought, we should have to find both sides of the limit thinkable (i.e. we should have to be able to think what cannot be thought). It will therefore only be in language that the limit can be drawn, and what lies on the other side of the limit will simply be nonsense. I do not wish to judge how far my efforts coincide with those of other philosophers.
Indeed, what I have written here makes no claim to novelty in detail, and the reason why I give no sources is that it is a matter of indifference to me whether the thoughts that I have had have been anticipated by someone else. I will only mention that I am indebted to Frege’s great works and of the writings of my friend Mr Bertrand Russell for much of the stimulation of my thoughts. If this work has any value, it consists in two things: the first is that thoughts are expressed in it, and on this score the better the thoughts are expressed–the more the nail has been hit on the head—the greater will be its value.–Here I am conscious of having fallen a long way short of what is possible. Simply because my powers are too slight for the accomplishment of the task.–May others come and do it better.
On the other hand the truth of the thoughts that are here communicated seems to me unassailable and definitive. I therefore believe myself to have found, on all essential points, the final solution of the problems. And if I am not mistaken in this belief, then the second thing in which the value of this work consists is that it shows how little is achieved when these problem are solved.”
How does this empirical fact originate? In what does it consist? We get a notion of science: immediately social. You may need a sociologist EVEN MORE for what is taken to be “the medical stuff.” Science is thought communities/styles. The issue (similar to Foucaults discourse) is what can be thought in that way. A class is this sense vs. a traditional methods class.
The whole ideas that there are alternative viewpoints (Gestalt). The theory constructs the gestalt to see things the way we do (p. 144 – readiness for directed perception). Latour – not relativism (one as good as the next – not what Mol says in a Hospital – in a Path lab, due to the tools they use, they have a capacity for directed reception). Latour – relativity – different things in different part of the hospital.
Not saying Syphilis is an ideal creation – it is just needs to be understood as getting there from a history. Kuhn (p. 9). Only able to see a duck or a rabbit, couldn’t see the lines on the page. In some ways, what ANT is about is seeing the lines on a page – what social life is about is about seeing ducks and rabbits. We need to see ducks and rabbits. He is paying the ultimate compliment to Fleck in seeing only the lines on a page. Before you see syphilis from a blood test.
P. 50: Would it be entirely possible to proceed without something that is fixed? Both thinking and facts are changeable – changes in thinking manifest themselves in changed facts (also: new facts discovered only by new thinking.
The world wants it fixed; in terms of how it really works. Sociology is split between either those who line up behind one another.
Why can’t there be a conversation? Doing without a fixed point vs. not needing one. Needing a “GENERAL THEORY” – so 20th century. Can’t get interested.
CAN YOU GET BEHIND IT?