After the presentation, each group member will comment and reflect on any ideas raised, or neglected, in the question, keyword, response and discussion process during the preceding week. And, if so inclined, the discussion leaders may revisit and comment on previous questions, keywords, responses, discussions and commentaries. A goal of your synthesis is to help craft a coherent narrative about the issues raised throughout the course. A possible outcome of your postings would be that at the semester's end one could, simply by reading all of the syntheses, get a clear sense of the relationship among significant ideas raised in the class. For reference, the Question Formation and Analysis assignment.

Please post your synthesis to this page.

Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Katelyn Kuhl and Jonathan Banda

Kuhn’s goal is to understand how science has developed. He assembles a theory of scientific development that both subverted science, yet also upheld a conservative, rationalist and privileged view of science. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions was originally written for the International Encyclopedia of Unified Science, promoted by the Vienna Circle of philosophers who sought a logical positivist unification of the sciences. This philosophy of science aimed to separate science from politics and wars, but also imposed a defined, albeit limited structure on what counted as “science”. Kuhn’s work adheres to this philosophy by offering a limited view of how science worked (based on the model of physics), and addressing science and scientists separate from their time place, culture or politics.

However, in the first sentence of Structure, Kuhn breaks form expectations and argues that to understand the philosophy of science, one must examine history: “History, if viewed as a repository for more than anecdote or chronology, could produce a decisive transformation in the image of science by which we are now possess.” (1) Kuhn transformatively marries history to philosophy, altering the philosophy of science completely and offering a truly interdisciplinary approach to the study of science itself. No longer should history serve to illustrate philosophical views, but, according to Kuhn’s argument, history should be the driving force in how we conceive of the demarcation of science vs. non-science.

Many of the questions and keywords framed Structure in light of STS theories of science, for example, questioning the progressive, cumulative nature of scientific development, a narrative that was largely accepted through the mid-20th century. The subversive nature of Structure was more completely addressed during our class discussion, including how it altered the understanding of science at the time and emphasizing his understanding of science not as a cumulative effort toward Truth, but as a non-progressive series of paradigms that fit past anomalies and better answer questions that could not be addressed by the former paradigm. This understanding of science has been fit into the cannon of STS as one of the steps toward science studies and a social and cultural understanding of science. Nevertheless, as a class we mined the historiographical methodology of Kuhn’s Structure, arguing that his historiographical argument was limited in scope because of his textbook, “great man” version of scientific history, which, in some ways, contradicted his argument that “normal science” was the paradigm for scientific progress.

In addition, Kuhn’s work demonstrated the value of placing science within its socio-historical context; previous theories were not unscientific, but instead they made sense within their accepted paradigms. As such, Kuhn was later attacked as a radical relativist, a label he adamantly denied. Kuhn argued that he was in no way a relativist and pushed back against an idea of science as simply one more socially constructed aspect of society, hoping to salvage its authority. For Kuhn, history revealed not the construction of science, but a universal theory of scientific development unrelated to any outside influences. His cycle of pre-paradigm-normal science-revolution-new paradigm was intrinsic to science, and in particular, to physics, as the basis of all science and scientific theory. Nevertheless, in the decades after Structure’s publication, this particular model of science was taken up by numerous fields (including the social sciences) as the path towards scientific legitimacy.

Second Presentation 22 September 2015

❧ Hughes, Thomas P. "The Evolution of Large Technological Systems." In The Social Construction of Technological Systems: New Directions in the Sociology and History of Technology edited by Wiebe E. Bijker, Thomas P. Hughes and Trevor Pinch, 51-82. MIT Press, 1987.
❧ Mackenzie, Donald. "Nuclear Missile Testing and the Social Construction of Accuracy." In The Science Studies Reader, edited by M. Biagioli. New York: Routledge, 1999. 342-357.
❧ Pinch, Trevor J. and Wiebe E. Bijker. "The Social Construction of Facts and Artifacts, or How the Sociology of Science and the Sociology of Technology Might Benefit from Each Other." In The Social Construction of Technological Systems: New Directions in the Sociology and History of Technology, edited by W. E. Bijker, T. P. Hughes and T. J. Pinch, 17-50. Cambridge and London: MIT Press, 1987.


This week’s readings (Hughes, MacKenzie, Punch & Bikjer) mark a shift towards the social understanding of science and technology. These articles demonstrate the ways in which science and technology “are both socially constructed and society shaping.” Hughes posits that technological systems are comprised of physical artifacts, organizations, scientific objects, legal artifacts, and natural resources.
MacKenzie utilizes the controversy surrounding the nuclear missile testing in order to demonstrate the ways in which ideas of accuracy are socially constructed incorporated into political discourses. This results in his development of the certainty trough, a framework that suggests that those closest to and in opposition to the technology are most likely to report uncertainties about the technology. Ultimately, MacKenzie suggests that “[k]nowledge is a network, in which different kinds of tests are performed against differently constructed backgrounds, with no one test – not even “use” – and no one background being accepted by all as the ultimate arbiter.”

Pinch & Bijker also address the social aspects of science and technology, and include multidirectional models that demonstrate the complexities of the relationships between humans/ societies and their inventions. In this article they also define the Empirical Programme of Rationalism (EPOR) and the Social Construction of Technology (SCOT), recommending ways in which they can be conflated in order to obtain a more robust understanding of both science and technology as socially embedded and embedding constructs. Additionally, they emphasize the importance of focusing on controversies as windows into social aspects. Furthermore, this article directly takes to task the linear, progressive narratives of science and technology studies in order to suggest the dialogic process that takes place between people and technologies.
Moreover, this reading serves to establish SCOT as a methodological framework that has the potential to be applied to any number of specific technologies. Thus, it also serves as a work of discipline building, with the example of the bicycle provided as a pedagogical tool demonstrating the application of this approach. It is also important to differentiate SCOT from actor-network-theory (ANT), which will be addressed in future classes. Latour states that in SCOT “the social is kept stable all along and accounts for the shape of technological change,” and therefore cannot be construed as fitting within ANT methodologies.

Ultimately, these works come together to demonstrate the social-situatedness of science and technologies. While this may seem obvious to many of us today, it stands in stark contrast to the image of objective, logical sciences that stand outside of the human social context. Thus, the acceptance of the role of society in science has the potential to call into question the pretensions of a discipline that has a special relationship to truth because of its ability to transcend its human practitioners. Lastly, this was the first week that we primarily focused on technology, which allows us to see the separation of science and technology earlier in the field that has become STS.

This week’s readings introduced an important set of tools and a “formal method of inquiry” to explore why technologies matter for the STS scholar. (Bijker et al. 2012, Foreward) The week’s readings of works by the leading developers and proponents of the social constructivist approach provide a method to look at the messiness of technology in contrast to the normative science processes performed by scientific experts described by Kuhn and Merton. The readings also introduced the class to an alternative method of analysis intentionally contrasted to what Hughes perceived as the overly deterministic perspective of authors such as Langdon Winner. The idea of socially constructed and society shaping technologies contrasted technologies that impose political outcomes on society lead to spirited discussion in the seminar.

Based on the seminar it seems that group hit upon most of the important ideas in this week’s reading. This is not to imply that the keyword list or question forum were comprehensive. The readings were quite dense with important new terms and concepts and encompassing them all in 3-5 keywords and 3-5 questions was not really feasible. However, the key words and questions we posted did generate sufficient discussion to get at the key concepts of the weeks readings. For example, although not presented as a key word or expressly highlighted in the questions, the seminar brought into focus important ideas such as reverse salient in technological systems and technological style. The concept of technological style, interestingly, provided an opportunity for the seminar to compare and contrast Hughes and Winner in terms of their perceptions of technological style. The seminar also used the readings as a catalyst for discussion of ideas raised in the first class about the nature of STS. Ariel’s question about how the ideas of High and Low Church distinctions might overlay on MacKenzie’s “trough of certainty” lead to an animated discussion about Fuller’s description of High and Low Church STS and its descriptiveness of the evolution of STS and its implications for the future of the discipline. (Allwood, Barmark and Fuller 2000, 390) Not surprisingly, no consensus was reached.

Allwood, Carl Martin, Barmark. Jan, and Steven Fuller. 2000. "A Conversation with Steve Fuller." Configurations 8 (3):389-417. doi: 10.1353/con.2000.0018.
Bijker, Wiebe J., Thomas P. Hughes, Trevor Pinch, and Deborah G. Douglas, eds. 2012. The Social Construction of Technology: New Directions in Sociology and History of Technology. Anniversary ed. Cambridge: MA: The MIT Press.

Karin Knorr-Cetina
Laboratory Studies: The Cultural Approach to the Study of Science
The Ethnographic Study of Scientific Work: Toward a Constructivist Interpretation of Science

Bruno Latour
Give me a Laboratory and I Will Raise the World
Sharon Traweek
Beamtimes and Lifetimes: The World of High Energy Physics

The readings this week focused on ethnography and laboratory studies as methodologies for studying the culture of scientific environments. Despite presenting on the incorrect Knorr-Cetina article, the class used her work to understand what is meant by a constructivist interpretation. Comments by Jonathan helped to focus on the materially constructed character of the laboratory and the importance of beginning a study from the ground up. Knorr-Cetina understands that contextual factors shape the environments in which scientific work is situated (116). This is why she advocates for a micro scale of study where elements such as interests or laboratory instrumentation can be accounted for. What we were not able to touch upon in discussion was Knorr-Cetina’s focus on using ethnography to demonstrate transepistemic relationships. She defines these relationships as consisting of the non-scientists who contribute to scientific knowledge (134). This was a point discussed in relation to Traweek’s work, although not utilizing that specific terminology.

The discussion of Latour brought the liveliest conversation of the evening. Latour differs from Knorr-Cetina in that he advocates for the dissolution of boundaries between inside and outside the laboratory (142), rather he wants to understand the connections between environments as socially situated and ‘translatable’. This contrasts to a more traditional sociological reading of culture that analyzes a space and understands it through preexisting structures (144, 157). Rather, from a Latourian perspective, structure is diffuse. Understanding culture in this way brought up some contentious questions regarding Latour’s conceptualization of power ‘generated’ in laboratories (160). What remains unanswered following the discussion is whether Latour (knowingly or unknowingly) privileges the role of the laboratory in current life? Does he place it into a priori structure that does not necessarily ‘exist’ in culture? Only time, or our midterm examinations will help to unravel the mysteries of the Latourian web.

The Traweek reading offered the most ‘traditional’ form of ethnographic work, utilizing tools such as participant observation and thick description. The class considered whether Traweek’s identity as both an insider (former lab employee, fellow scientist, undergoing peer review by physicists) and an outsider (female, non-physicist) affected her ability to perform effective ethnography. The class concluded that these issues were no larger than that which any ethnographer would encounter, and were effectively handled through careful self-reporting. However, it was pointed out that one feature of traditional ethnography had to go away: there was no way that the site of the ethnography, and by extension individual identities, could be completely suppressed in the account. This led to a related concern: to what extent the physicists, knowing the account could not be made fully anonymous, exercised self-censorship, or pushed agendas, in their discussion. However, the overall view was that an ethnography of the laboratory was no more limited in reliability than any other ethnography.

The class concluded with a discussion of the role of laboratory studies compared to other STS methodologies. Many of the discussants agreed with Latour’s statement that, in the end, laboratory ethnography simply revealed that the laboratory had no unique social interactions, weakening the idea of a defined laboratory boundary. A counter-question was offered: does Knorr-Cetina’s argument that scientific knowledge is constructed, and not discovered, have implications for the value of ethnography? The discussion quickly shifted to if the idea that knowledge is constructed has implications for the nature of ethnography. It was suggested (in conclusion) that construction of knowledge appears to be a more apparent in ethnography in other forms of scientific writing.

(11/3) Readings:

• Braverman, Harry. “Technology and Capitalist Control” In The Social Shaping of Technology. 2nd ed., edited by Donald MacKenzie and Judy Wajcman, 158-160. Open University Press, 1999.
• Marx, Karl. “The machine versus the worker” In The Social Shaping of Technology. 2nd ed., edited by Donald MacKenzie and Judy Wajcman, 156-157. Open University Press, 1999.
• Noble, David F. “Social choice in machine design: the case of automatically controlled machine tools” In The Social Shaping of Technology. 2nd ed., edited by Donald MacKenzie and Judy Wajcman, 109-124. Open University Press, 1999.
• Oudshoorn, Nellie and Trevor Pinch. “Introduction: How Users and Non-Users Matter.” In How Users Matter: The Co-Construction of Users and Technology, edited by Nellie Oudshoorn and Trevor Pinch, 1-27. Boston: MIT Press, 2005.

In the Marx’s the Machine versus the Worker, the class discussion explored the Marx’s concept of capitalism, accumulation profit, alienation, machinery, and how Marx tells us about machine in the capitalist mode of production. In the context the machine versus the worker, Marx’s account can’t separate with capitalism, which concerns on selling commodities and accumulation profit. In the capitalism era, new machinery, and inventions create the revolution of mode production and society.

Speaking of competition between the machine and the worker, on the one hand, Marx writes, “the object of improved machinery is to diminish manual labor, to provide for the performance of a process or the completion of a link in a manufacture by the aid of an iron instead of the human apparatus.” (p.156) However, Marx notices that, “The minor improvement in machinery having for their object economy of power, the production of better work, the turning off more work in the same time, or in supplying the place of child, a female, a man, are constant and although sometimes apparently of no great moment, have somewhat important result.” (p.156) This means that in the capitalist mode of production, on the one hand, machinery tends to be destructive, especially to replace human workers. On the other hand, the machinery opens opportunity for female’s workers to involve in the capitalist scheme. In addition, in taking control the human workers, machinery replaced not only skill but also alienated the workers from their product and expression of life. Therefore, in the mode of capitalist production, profit means not only money (things) but also power in dominating working class.

Harry Braverman’s Technology and Capitalist Control offers a view of the relationship between technology and division of labour in the capitalist development. I think the class discussion tended to concern on how the capitalist use technology in creating division of labor and specialization. In Braverman’s perspective, technology centralized control over human labour. Braverman argues that machinery needs to meet certain conditions to control human labour.

In addition to increase capital, capitalism creates the centralization of human workers, called manager and skill labour. In this context, capital means not only money but also politics (control) of labour. Furthermore, specialization of skill degraded humanity. By using management, capitalist specialized skill and many other workers become the unskilled workers. Regarding of this, Braverman writes, “The mass of humanity is subjected to the labor for the purpose of those who control it rather than for any general purposes of ‘humanity’ as such.” (p.158)

- - - - -
'Technology and Human Agency: Machines, Workers, Users' — Synthesis by Lisa Shaler-Clark

Class discussion of technology and human agency explored social-technical interactions between machines, workers, and users. In the first reading, Noble rejects technological determinism (109) (a keyword) in the case of machine tool production. He highlights social factors that shaped adoption of Numerically Controlled (NC) instead of Recorded Playback (RP) machine tool production systems. Responses reflected that a technological determinist view would point to inevitably increasing automation as computer capabilities evolved. Noble discusses social and organizational impacts which favored one approach to machine tool production over the other. The federal government imposed standards for a contract. This social selection of standards by Air Force managers, discussed in responses and class, made downstream impacts, resulting in newer, 'technologically fascinating' computer NC systems displacing simpler RP systems. Large defense contractors could afford the NC machines and the skilled labor to run them. These machines automated tasks previously done by skilled humans with expertise, but who lacked repeatable precision. While reducing variances in tool quality, these automation systems also reduced the number of human laborers. This reduced the power of labor unions and firms' vulnerability to labor strikes, which had increased after post-war demobilization of soldiers — a complex social context. The NC machine adoption created 'barriers to entry' against smaller firms less able to invest in capital. The displaced RP machines had been simpler and less costly to operate, but less precise. Small firms that used them could no longer compete with big firms — so not all capitalists are alike. The new government standards increased precision of machine tools, increasing precision of the items the machine tools helped make. The technology switch reduced variability from human labor relations (strikes), and created favorable conditions for large defense firms, shifting power from skilled labor, unions, and small firms. The replacement of labor by machines is not a simple equation that computers replace unskilled labor by automating routine tasks. The NC system replaced SKILLED labor, people who held depths of tacit knowledge. By implementing computer-driven systems, NC systems added engineers with more skills (and costs) to support the machines — not the simple Marxist understanding of technology, labor, owners and power.

This shift of labor relations to favor the capitalist managers and large firms instead of workers and unions led to discussion of readings by Marx and the American Marxist Braverman. A synthesis of these readings discussed in class and responses was that Marx described early Industrial Age factories, where capitalists were portrayed as separate and distinct from exploited workers. The workers’ conditions were dangerous to their lives. Also, workers were separated from the fruits of their labor, so the risks went to the workers and the benefits went to the capitalist owners of firms. Noble described a later, more nuanced replacement of {skilled labor} for {machines + computer programmers}, in effect making the skilled laborers' lives better by less exposure to factory hazards such as production chemicals. One counter-argument to the classic Marxist understanding about the split between laborers and owners which Braverman presents is that the split is not 'natural' (159), any more than any other organization of labor. These categories are too abstract to apply to modern organizations, where a manager may also be the engineer who provides expertise and direct labor to fix a production machine. Is machinery a controlling force over humanity? This question was briefly discussed, but more time would have helped the class unpack these concepts for a deeper understanding.

A useful meta-discussion focused Noble's article (121n10), where he advocates for a nuanced understanding of power and dynamics between categories. He states:
. ' 'Bottom-Line' explanations for complex historical developments, like the introduction of
. new capital equipment, are never in themselves sufficient, not necessarily to be trusted….
. in the case of automation, steps are taken less out of careful calculation then on faith that it
. is always good to replace labor with capital… thus automation is driven forward, not simply
. by the profit motive, but by the ideology of automation itself, which reflects the social
. relations of production.'

Technological determinism suggests that technology follows its own momentum and progresses to support the profit motive. As a result, replacing labor with capital machinery is believed to always be cheaper, making production faster and better. Noble argues that these calculations may not prevail. The ‘technology fascination’ is ideology that favors automation for reasons beyond profit: reducing quality variability, reducing schedule unpredictability due to labor strikes, and other social reasons that may not reduce down to profit. The technology may in fact support humanity, as Braverman noted, if it meets the 'human needs of the producer' (159) instead of just the capitalist owner. If laborer and owner have aligned instead of antagonistic interests, the role of machines diversifies.

Oudshoorn and Pinch (2005) describe the importance of both users and non-users in shaping socio-technical innovations, with the diverse ways they 'consume, modify, domesticate, design, reconfigure, and resist technologies' (1), unanticipated by designers focused on lead users with specific use cases. Focusing on non-users and resistance brings a new perspective. A diversity of roles of users and non-users socially shape and are shaped by socio-technical innovations. One example discussed was the transition to chemical-film portable cameras created by George Eastman. Along with the technology of the camera, Eastman had to create, recruit, and train a new group of users who had different preferences, needs, and expectations of ‘good’ photography than earlier professional photographers who used cameras with large glass plates, chemically coated and developed in a darkroom. He also created a new industry, film developers in drug stores across the USA. This disruption by pocket cameras has been further disrupted by social adoption of digital cameras, and again by the lower quality but always accessible camera on smart phones. The Kline and Pinch case study of social construction of the automobile by rural American users and non-users shows how post-designer shaping and use of the auto is diverse and dynamic. Human agency is manifested differently by rural farm men, farm women, car non-users (resistors), original car designers, manufacturers of accessory kits, and even salesmen. This fruitful discussion would be well to continue over coming class discussions. Putting Marxist theory into the same discussion time as User Shaping provides a rich and complex discussion, worth spending more time on.

Synthesis from Noble article presentation - Russ Rochte

A summary and discussion of David F. Noble, “Social Choice in Machine Design: The Case of Automatically Controlled Machine Tools,” in The Social Shaping of Technology: How The Refrigerator Got Its Hum, ed. Donald MacKenzie and Judy Wajcman (Philadelphia: Open University Press, 1985), 109-124, led the evening.

The biography of the late Dr. Noble set the stage for the discussion of the article. Dr. Noble was a critical historian of technology, science, and education at York University (Toronto). He took his Undergrad in Chemistry and History from the University of Florida, and his Ph.D. in History from the University of Rochester (NY). He was a founding member of MIT’s Science, Technology & Society Program (1975-1984). Dr. Noble was teaching at York until his sudden death of viral pneumonia in December 2010. Two of the major theses which ran through Noble’s work were that technological automation was a deliberately chosen method for depriving skilled workers of power (as in our article excerpt), and that the “Academic-Industrial System” is used to over-control and overwork junior faculty and graduate students, expropriate the intellectual property of leading faculty, and, replace the visions and voices of less-prestigious faculty with the second-hand and reified product of academic "superstars” (who are often out of touch with present-day realities).

The presenter covered the key questions, and arguments in the article itself, which was originally published in Politics and Society 8, no. 3-4 (Sept 1978): 313-347. Our reading was an extract of the larger article which was widely republished after it first appeared and is considered a “classic.” The key questions addressed by the article were: why does technology tend to strengthen the market position of only large metalworking firms and enhance managerial authority in the shop; why did this new technology take the form that it did – and why only this technology; was there any other way to automate machine tools that did not enhance managerial control? (109-110). Two main arguments in the article were that: firstly, Technological Determinism was insufficient and that a Marxist critical analysis is necessary to uncover the real answers to questions such as those above because there were a number of otherwise hidden social factors which resulted in NC machine tools being adopted; secondly, that the numerically controlled machine tools were introduced to increase efficiency (the stated purpose) but also led to a disempowering of skilled labor through “a reorganization of the production process in the direction of greater managerial control” (109); thus N/C “enhanced managerial control over production…because the technology was chosen, in part, for just that purpose” (120).

Amongst the key points in the article Noble observed that the choice of Numerical Control over Record-Playback technology was influenced by “massive Air Force support,” which helped to determine the shape of both hardware and software. This removed any considerations of cost effectiveness (which hindered smaller firms’ adoption of the technology) (113). Likewise, the development of the Automatically Programmed Tools (APT) computer language inhibited the development of alternative, simpler languages and rearranged the relationships in the industry, making firms reliant on computers and programmers rather than internal assets (114). The choice of NC over Record-Playback also had to do “with the ideology of engineering [rather] than economic calculations.” NC was a “symbol of the computer age” whereas RP “retained a vestige of traditional human skills” (116). Since, as historians are admonished, “graduate student read the footnotes,” key observations from the notes included that “the critical historian must go behind the economic category of cost-minimization to discover the social relations that it embodies (and conceals)” (122n6, quoting Brecher), and that “Automation is driven forward, not simply by profit motive, but by the ideology of automation itself, which reflects the social relations of production” (123n10).

The resulting spirited discussion centered on the two questions previously offered for comment via the course wiki: What is technological determinism, and why does Noble reject it; and what is the "ideology of automation" and how does it "reflect the social relations of production"? A summary of the class answers was that technological determinism was the idea that technology drives history: that TD shapes the social but is left unshaped by the social. Noble (and the class) thought that a far more critical and detailed analysis centered in co-construction involving the discovery of a multitude of resident social factors was a far better idea. The ideology of automation included the idea that it was best to automate wherever and whenever possible in order to replace labor with automation – which was becoming one of the tenets of the then-new Space Age. Following the Marxist analysis offered by Noble, automating machine tools was done to eliminate human intervention and emotion, remove the ability of the workforce to “pace” the work, and shorten the management chain, allowing the Capitalists to extract the maximum value with the minimum necessary workforce, with the added benefit of deskilling the workforce in order to pay lower wages. In actuality, the "intelligence of production" managed to remain on the shop floor. An additional question about Noble’s handling of his sources was also entertained.

Braverman, Harry. 'Technology and capitalist control.' In The Social Shaping of Technology. 2nd ed., edited by Donald MacKenzie and
Judy Wajcman, 158-160. Open University Press, 1999.

Marx, Karl. 'The machine versus the worker.' In The Social Shaping of Technology. 2nd ed., ed. by Donald MacKenzie and Judy Wajcman,
156-157. Open Univ. Press, 1999.

Noble, David F. 'Social choice in machine design: the case of automatically controlled machine tools.' In The Social Shaping of Technology.
2nd ed., edited by Donald MacKenzie and Judy Wajcman, 109-124. Open University Press, 1999.

Oudshoorn, Nellie and Trevor Pinch. 'Introduction: How Users and Non-Users Matter.' In How Users Matter: The Co-Construction of Users
and Technology, edited by Nellie Oudshoorn and Trevor Pinch, 1-27. Boston: MIT Press, 2005.

Kline, Ron and Trevor Pinch, 'Users as Agents of Technological Change: Social Construction of the Automobile in the Rural United States.'
Technology & Culture 37 (1996) 763-795.

STS: The Global Turn – Synthesis by Anita Mbogoni

This week’s readings focused on the global shift in STS – the shift from thinking about science and technology as locally grounded entities, to examining the ways in which globalization in the colonial and postcolonial eras led to the spread of scientific and technological artifacts and knowledge between localities. Warwick Anderson’s “Postcolonial Technoscience” (2002) framed postcolonialism as more than just an overarching global theory, by discussing some of the specific ways in which knowledge and objects have been transported between previous colonial centers and peripheries. These include the commodification of science as part of a global capitalist economic system, and the increase in movement of people between previous colonial powers and previous colonies, in both directions – though, for the first time, movement out of the peripheries has outstripped movement to the peripheries. The transportation of knowledge has affected STS too; STS work by scholars in the Global South has received increased recognition in Western Europe and North America, showing that it is increasingly difficult in a globalized world for knowledge to remain firmly local.

The spread of knowledge between localities, and the increase in recognition of work from the Global South in the Western world, pushes back against the notion of Western science as “objective, authoritative, and universally acceptable” (Anderson 646). Many cultures had their own scientific traditions, which either coexisted with, or were dominated by, Western traditions during the colonial era, and decolonization allowed, in many places, a resurgence of traditional non-Western conceptualizations of science. For instance, during the 20th century, Chinese science began to be viewed, by the Chinese and others, as a complement to Western science, creating a “sharp divide” between the two traditions (Elshakry 106). Despite this division, the increased awareness of the existence of Chinese scientific methods in the West has helped to break down the idea of Western science as the “universal” way of doing science. Additionally, as Elshakry writes, the very “concept of ‘Western science’ was itself developed” outside of the Western world (100). Similarly, one could argue that the concept of non-Western science originated in the West, as a way to differentiate between traditions that were previously viewed as universal, and those that existed on the fringes – Western vs. non-Western science.


Anderson, Warwick. "Introduction: Postcolonial Technoscience." Social Studies of Science 32, no. 5/6, (2002): 643-658.

Elshakry, Marwa. "When Science Became Western: Historiographical Reflections." Isis 101 (March 2010), 98-109.

Synthesis: The Global Shift by Elijah Salters

1. Anderson, Warwick. "Introduction: Postcolonial Technoscience." Social Studies of Science 32, no. 5/6, (2002): 643-658.

STS practitioners study Social Studies of Science, Introduction: Postcolonial Technoscience" as a subject which address the issues where Western science and technology are often consider the originators and authority of science and technology. In many cases, Western science and technology is appears as the front runner for all or most historical science and technology discoveries. Anderson’s works gives a prospective of historical science beyond the region of Western science known as Postcolonial Technoscience. Anderson bases his arguments on the grounds of politic and economical views as of how western science is often credited for many science discoveries. Anderson considers this as an inaccurate account of science and points out that knowledge both locally and globally are related.

2. Elshakry, Marwa. "When Science Became Western: Historiographical Reflections." Isis 101 (March 2010), 98-109.

The division of the world divides the world recognizing Western science and technology as the primary contributor across the global. However, STS practitioners discovered historical science discovers which was not part of Western science but that of non-Western, i.e. China. Similar to the works of Anderson, the article by Elshakry gives a compelling argument as well with the added detail pertaining to the works found in areas such as Egypt and China. Although, Egypt and China are known for many historical contributions, Elshakry emphasized their science contributions as part of the global knowledge found within historical science.

3. Turnbull, David. “Conclusion: Rationality, Relativism and the Politics of Knowledge" and "'On with the motley': The contingent assemblage of knowledge spaces.” In Masons, Tricksters, and Cartographers: Comparative Studies in the Sociology of Scientific and Indigenous Knowledge. Taylor & Francis, 2000. 216-232, 19-52.

Turnbull addresses the issue of politics in study of historical science and technology. Turnbull relates the social and political with transfer of global knowledge. There is a dependency of global knowledge with the origin of the knowledge politically. The knowledge gain in science and technology should not depend on its origin and political standings. Knowledge both local and global should stand independent and based by its own characteristics of the science and technology regardless any political or social status

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