Accepted Paper:

Epistemic cultures, communities or associations: Diverging paths to pursue  

Author:

Markus Arnold (Universit├Ąt Klagenfurt)

Paper short abstract:

Different theories, as to what constitutes a collective, underpin different types of STS-research. It is therefore necessary to evaluate the pros and cons of these concepts. A decision, how to refer to these alternate ways of practicing STS, is being called for.

Paper long abstract:

In STS coexist (contradictory) proposals of how to conceive collectives of knowledge production. There are proposals to think of them as "thought collectives" (Ludwik Fleck), as "scientific communities" (Robert K. Merton, Warren O. Hagstrom), as "epistemic cultures" (Karin Knorr-Cetina), as networked "associations" (Bruno Latour), or as mere exchange relations within "trading zones" of knowledge production (Peter Galison). Each carries its own theoretical assumptions about social relations, epistemic authority, causal links and the questions that one should raise in his or her empirical research.

For example, there are reasons why we should reconsider Bruno Latour's statement that social scientists, when studying collectives, have mistaken the effect for the cause, since "society is not what holds us together, it is what is held together." If we follow this advice, how does it change the way STS conceptualizes "collectives" and the impact of collectives on knowledge production? I will argue that the prize for this bold move may be too high. But does this mean that we have to go back talking again about "values", "communities" and "shared cultures" when we want to explain epistemic authority and shared quality standards? And what should we do then with the non-human actors ANT has so successfully introduced in our research programs?

Different theories, as to what constitutes a collective, underpin different types of STS-research. It is therefore necessary to evaluate the pros and cons of these concepts. A decision, how to refer to these alternate ways of practicing STS, is being called for.

Panel T073
Epistemic Regimes - Reconfiguring epistemic quality and the reconstitution of epistemic authority