Exam Question Bank

Please post you potential questions for the mid-term exam and the end-of-term exam to this page. For reference, the Exam assignment.

Ariel's Questions

1. If Pinch and Bijker’s approach in "The Social Construction of Facts and Artifacts, or How the Sociology of Science and the Sociology of Technology Might Benefit from Each Other" is read as a methodological tool, what are the implications? Explain the utility of this in terms of building a discipline, this can include strengths and weaknesses.

2. Given our readings thus far, what support/ resistance has been provided for the conflation of science and technology. How have their boundaries been drawn and redrawn?

3. Are artifacts political? Include assumptions about power dynamics that your argument relies upon.

4. Is Kuhn’s version of science dead? If so, what are the implications for the field of STS? Which of his contributions (if any) are lost and which are taken up / taken for granted by later theorists.

5. In Leviathan and the Air-Pump both Shapin and Schaffer and their subject, Boyle, use visual methods/ representations. Describe how Shapin and Schaffer and/ or Boyle employ visual representations? This can be accomplished through the close reading of an image(s), but should also address the methodologies or politics behind the illustration. Lastly, what discursive work is done by these images, if any, (i.e. why use them)?

Amanda's Questions

1. Knowledge? (Or, Hilgartner proposed in Week 2 that STS could be defined as the study of knowledge. During class this was contested by many participants in the discussion. Utilizing the readings from the past eight weeks, make an argument for or against understanding STS as the study of knowledge. If you disagree, propose an alternate one-word rubric that you understand as a encapsulation the field.)

2. In Has Critique Run Out Of Steam Bruno Latour advocates for a form of critique that is "associated with more, not with less, with multiplication, not subtraction…That is, generating more ideas than we have received, inheriting from a prestigious critical tradition but not letting it die away" (248). Take two pieces we have read this term and explain how these writings could be adapted to take on Latour's challenge. What information would be needed? Where could it be acquired from? Are there any methodological programs we have learned about that could be incorporated to better meet the standards of a more holistic critique?

3. Map one of the examples from the readings on Laboratory Studies or Social Constructivism (Leviathan and the Airpump, Latour & Pasteur, Pinch & Bijker, Traweek, or Mackenzie) onto Kuhn's conception of paradigm shifts. Is there any symmetry of knowledge formation between Kuhn's functionalist understanding and other analyses that are more grounded in a social construction of knowledge? How do the different focuses of these forms of analysis impact what types of information is deemed relevant?


  • Describe how two/three authors address accuracy and truth. Have these authors fallen into the trap of deconstruction that Latour warns of in “Why Has Critique Run Out of Steam?” Explain why or why not.
  • Discuss how the “laboratory” is utilized theoretically, symbolically and specifically by Knorr-Cetina, Latour, and Shapin/Schaffer.
  • Collier stated at the beginning of class that STS as an academic field is a set of methods. Describe and discuss the strengths and weaknesses of three of the methods we have encountered.
  • How do Merton, Kuhn, Latour, and others answer the question: What makes science unique and worthy of study?

Jonathan's Questions

1. STS scholars have offered various ways of envisioning the relationship between science and society. Choose two differing views regarding this relationship and compare/contrast them considering their implications for: methodology, scale and objects of study, epistemology (theory of knowledge), and the relationship between STS and its fields of study

2. Several authors we have read thus far argued for the value of an interdisciplinary approach to the study of science. Evaluate their claims, using examples from the various studies we have read thus far to support your argument. To what extent did the studies we have read thus far exhibit interdisciplinarity? What advantage, if any, did an interdisciplinary approach offer?

3. Most of the authors we have read thus far highlight the power of science in relation to society. However, to what extent do they address to the differential power relations within science and larger society (i.e. social hierarchies that privilege some while marginalizing and excluding others)?

Elijah's Questions

1. How could Latour’s theory of “inside” or “outside” laboratory experimentation help to improve the, accuracy experimentation?

2. Using the Latour’s theory of “micro” and “macro” levels of science, describe his theory as relationship between historical scientists (1881) and non-scientific social groups?

3. The Evolution of Large Technological 1987) by Thomas Hughes describes technological systems as messy, complex, problem solving components. Using this information, explain if Hughes is a supporter of Boyle or Hobbes?

4. Considering the definition of the Social Construction of Technology (SCOT), explain whether their writings align within the definition of SCOT. Or, how their writing appears outside the definition of SCOT.

** Rich's Questions

1. Using the readings in the class to date, compare science and technology. Are they dependent? Does science necessarily create technology? Do technologies generate science?
2. If a large technological system has technological momentum as described by Hughes doesn’t this imply technological determinism? Provide examples to support your argument.
3. Latour invokes Clausewitz to state that, like war, science is politics by other means. Using examples other than Pasteur, describe what he means by this.

Michael’s Questions

1. Knorr-Cetina argues that scientific knowledge is constructed, and not described. Is there relationship between this idea, and the use of laboratory ethnography can play a role in understanding scientific knowledge?

2. The articles given in this class consistently use physics, and closely related physical sciences (astronomy, inorganic chemistry) as the models of scientific knowledge. How might this change the conclusions STS comes to in science? Do the examples given in class where the science under consideration is not a physical science support or weaken the idea that physics is a representative model?

3. Kuhn extensively discusses the role of “normal science” in the context of his structure of scientific revolutions. What exactly is this relationship, and is there any merit to the idea that scientific revolutions are simply normal science occurring at an accelerated rate?

4. The laboratory, its definition, and its boundaries, is a repeated them in the readings in the class. However, the instrumented nature of science is a theme that appears, although less directly, in many of the same readings. Is the nature of the instrument a definition as fundamental as the definition of the laboratory in STS, or subsumed in the definition of the laboratory?

Pratama's Questions

1. Kuhn draws the shifts in scientific revolution: Do rationales of science change following the process of the shifts? Illustrate an example from reading materials we have read thus far.

2. Describe the role of cognitive science, applied science and socio cultural aspects in STS’s approach, and using the materials reading we have read thus far, how STS scholars position their account, and what is the implication?

3. In Donald Mackenzie’s Nuclear Missile Testing and the Social Construction of Accuracy, describe what makes the actors claim their knowledge become accuracy, to what extent might their knowledge claims be uncovered, and what is the implication?

- - - - - - -
Lisa's Suggested Questions:

Q1. Winner argues that artifacts have politics. Explain. Does knowledge have politics?

Q2. Put Pinch & Bijker’s descriptions of the Empirical Programme of Relativism (EPOR) and Social Construction of Technology (SCOT) in conversation with one another. How do the authors highlight their similarities and differences, and how are these used to forge an argument for a new/ combined approach?

Q3. For Latour, eliminating the distinction between outside and inside the laboratory is essential for laboratory studies. Explain Latour’s argument here and bring up any issues you may have with his conceptualization. How does this approach compare with Schaffer and Shapin’s description of the work of Hobbes or Boyle?

Final Exam Questions

Ariel's Questions

1) Is making knowledge local enough? In Turnbull’s Masons, Tricksters, and Cartographies he suggests that from “the spatialised perspective, universality, objectivity, rationality, efficacy and accumulation cease to be unique and special characteristics of techno-scientific knowledge, rather these traits are effects of collective work of the knowledge producers in a given knowledge space” (pg. 20). Thus, the question becomes whether a locally situated approach to knowledge systems can truly achieve these ends, and if so how.
2) Consider the similarities and differences that you would expect from Rose and Turnbull’s approaches to quantification. What are the implications of both and how might they be different?
3) How do Turnbull and Latour read assemblages? Note the areas in which they are similar and/or different, and identify their respective objectives for deployment.
4) What is objectivity? Compare and contrast two conceptualizations of objectivity from our course readings.
5) Address three aspects of postcolonial theories/ approaches and their implications for STS.

Anita's Questions

1) “So, where others see reasoned arguments or evidence or interpretation or experiments, Latour’s outsider sees only attempts to dominate, strategies for winning battles, means of attack, trials of strength, and other forms of violence” (Amsterdamska 496). Do you agree with Amsterdamska’s assertion that Latour constructs a power dynamic between scientists and non-scientists that might not actually exist, or perhaps exaggerates a dynamic that exists to a lesser degree than what Latour describes? What might this say about the ways in which STS practitioners study science, and about the role that scientists’ own voices should play in STS?

2) In “Postcolonial Technoscience,” Warwick Anderson writes that “scientific and technological endevours become sites for fabricating and linking local and global identities, as well as sites for disrupting and challenging the distinctions between global and local” (644). Do you agree with Anderson’s claim? How does viewing science and/or technology within a postcolonial framework allow us to conceptualize the ways in which this might occur?

3) David Turnbull cites Steven Shapin in his claim that “the basis of knowledge is not empirical verification, but trust” (Turnbull 20). Do you agree with this claim? How might the concept of “knowledge as trust” factor into discussions of the movement of science between different localities and cultures, and across different times?

Amanda's Questions
1) What is STS?

2) What happens to Science when you eliminate a Normative Structure? If science is just like every other institution, how can it maintain legitimacy?

3) The lines between Latour's Actor-Network-Theory and Harraway's proposal for the study of situated knowledges may at first glance seem to be incommensurable ways of studying science and scientific life. Yet, both theorists are concerned with accounting for multiplicity, depth, and connectedness. Can these two methodologies be brought together productively? What sort of understandings might this approach produce?

Jonathan's questions

1) In "Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective," Donna Haraway proposes an epistemological framework from which to provide a “better account” of the world. How does she propose STS scholars do this? Compare/contrast her epistemology to two other authors we have read this semester.

2) In Reassembling the Social, Latour outlines his vision of Actor Network Theory. Using at three other authors we read this semester, provide a critique of this methodology, describing at least two types of STS problems that, in your opinion, it fails to sufficiently address.

3) Woolgar and Lezaun argue: “The history of STS complicates any simplistic distinction (or transition) between ontology and epistemology … the field has long advanced an analytical programme that foregrounds the instrumental, performative and material dimensions implied in the making of facts and artefacts” (2013: 322). Using at least three epistemological approaches from readings this term, describe and compare the ontological arguments that are embedded in them.

Elijah Salters
1. Some scientific and technical discoveries are customary accepted as tools which are used to improve the labor force in the areas of safety and quality. Harry Braverman’s, “Technology and the capitalist control” writes “Machinery comes into the world not as the servant of humanity but as the instrument of those to whom the accumulation of capital gives the ownership of the machines. “ (158) Please provide an analyst of the social impact of machinery in our labor force as more than a tool but a capitalist control? What is controlled by the capitalist?
2. In David Noble’, “The Social Shaping of Technology”, the numeric control (N/C) and the record-playback were used to describe two automation projects. However, the characteristics of these automation projects differ dramatically. As STS practitioners study these systems, please provide an analysis which compares these projects in their relationship between the machinist and management.
3. Using David Turnbull, What is experimental knowledge and is it useful? What is local knowledge? What is the impact of interacting local knowledge with that of the global.

Hilberer Question Input

1. Does the role of human agency in the co-construction of technology as described by Oudshoorn and Pinch (Oudshoorn & Pinch, 2005) modify Marxist ideas of the march of technology in oppressing labor? If so, how? If not why not?

2. Is the role of human agency in the co-construction of technology as described by Oudshoorn and Pinch (Oudshoorn & Pinch, 2005) the theoretical linkage that intellectually connects ANT and SCOT?

3. What role did the evolution of objectivity as described by Daston and Gallison (Daston & Gallison, 2007) influence (or not influence) the rise and spread of western science as described by Elshakry (Elshakry, 2010)?

Katelyn Kuhl Questions

1. Latour argues against starting with large structural theories when conducting sociological research of a subject. However, we read some compelling articles that use feminist or postcolonial frameworks. Analyze the arguments of 2-3 of these articles and decide whether you agree with Latour or not.

2. How can the turn to ontology in STS fit into a framework of STS as the study of knowledge?

3. Throughout this course, we’ve discussed a range of topics that can be included in the study of an STS scholar. Where do you draw the line? What wouldn’t be a subject or framework for STS study? Is it important to delineate what is excluded from STS or should STS simply emphasize the inclusive/interdisciplinary nature of its scholarship?

Pratama Yudha Pradheksa's Questions
1. In the context of the industrial age, Braverman writes, “Machinery comes into the world not as the servant of ‘humanity’, but as the instrument of those to whom the accumulation capital gives the ownership of the machines.” (p.158) What could STS offer to see humanity in the globally integrated enterprise today?

2. Using our readings in “the global turn”, in what ways STS understand how is local or global modern science and their relationship to society?

3. Marwa Elshakry writes, “Indeed, in many ways the history of science itself started off by asking if science was the specific product of Western civilization or—in the language of a slightly later era—of the West” (p.99) Describe in what ways postcolonial STS perspectives offer an alternative view of seeing science and what is its implication?

Michael's Questions

1. The course began with a discussion about the nature of STS, and if it constituted a single field looking at the study of knowledge, or a series of disparate fields. Looking back through the course material, is there a discussion topic that makes a case that it is most effectively studied using this larger framework, or where another framework dominates? Explain why.

2. The relation of science and technology to labor given in the readings can be seen as somewhat monolithic, in that it identifies science AND technology as having the same relationship to labor. Since in other contexts, we’ve seen the value of making distinctions, is there a valid distinction (based on the course materials) to be made here?

3. There were two parallel discussions of quantification in the class: the first building on the social construction of knowledge in week 4 with “Nuclear Missile Testing and the Social Construction of Accuracy" and the second through examination of quantification in non-scientific fields such as accounting. Can these two discusssions be combined into an overall discussion of quantification?

Rochte's two cent contribution:

1. Just what, exactly, IS this thing we have studied, this STS? What, if any, unifying threads can be found that can hold the "discipline" together if it is methodologically so diverse that we began the course by admitting that the academic field of STS didn't have a definition?

2. What is "Entification"? Could it be used as a descriptor for the whole of STS, rather than "knowledge"? Why or why not? If it were, what are the potential rewards of accepting it as the one-word description for STS? What are the potential pitfalls?

3. Compare and contrast the dominant "theories" or methodological approaches we have studied. What are their individual strengths and weaknesses? Is there hope for a "Grand Unified Theory" of sorts within STS? What might it look like?

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License