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Record Type: Review   ID: 334

Science as Practice and Culture

Pickering, Andrew (Ed.).

 This is an anthology of writings by leaders in the new discipline of the sociology of scientific knowledge (SSK) which, Pickering notes, assumes that science is a social process, even as regards "its technical core" (p. 2) and "scientific knowledge itself [is] a social product" (p. 2). Third, SSK aims to explore these assumptions empirically and naturalistically, using science to study the social practice of science(!). However, as the field developed, it took a new turn—to practice. Studies concentrated on what scientists actually do and on culture as being both the medium and product of any given practice of science. This anthology concentrates on the latter. In the Introduction, "From Science as Knowledge to Science as Practice," Pickering provides a history of SSK, which began in the early 1970s. At first there were only a few locations where scientists were working in this area: Edinburgh (Barry Barnes, David Bloor, Steven Shapin), a Bath (Harry Collins), and York (Michael Mulkay). Then other approaches to SSK began to appear and to differ from each other. He describes these and also gives several reasons why it is important to study scientific practice. The book is in two parts. The first, "Positions," contains papers that are representative of individual perspectives on science practice. The authors are Ian Hacking, David Gooding, Karin Knoor Cetins, Andrew Pickering and Adam Stephanides, and Joan H. Fujimura. The second part consists of "Arguments," and the papers deal with the theory and practice of the study of science practice and its relation to SSK. In doing so, the authors have to deal with the social epistemology and reflexive ethnography. The authors are Michael Lynch, David Bloor, H.M. Collins and Steven Yearley, Steve Woolgar, Michael Callon and Bruno Latour, Steve Fuller, and Sharon Traweeh. How does exceptional human experience fit into all this? I propose that various EHEs may provide the "surprise" element in science beyond anything the scientists do or think. Fuller even suggests in his article that "a sustained comparison of scientific discoveries and religious miracles would prove illuminating" (p. 421). I agree, particularly if we define "religious miracle" very broadly as exceptional human experience.
Publisher Information:Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1992. 474p. Chap. bibl; 21 figs; Index: 469-474; 2 tables
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