Author:Lucas Introna (Lancaster University )
Paper short abstract:
What exactly does it mean for epistemic practices to be performative? We tend to do the same epistemic practices as in the representational paradigm—observing, describing, and narrating. How are they different; what do they enact; and, what constitutes good/valid performative epistemic practices?
Paper long abstract:
Social scientists have studied the epistemic practices of 'natural' scientist, in their laboratories, but have not turned their gaze towards their own epistemic practices, in any significant way. For example, we do not have a Latourian type study of 'ethnographic life'—in the idiom of the now famous 'laboratory life.' Indeed, there are many scholars in STS that claim to use the theoretical apparatus of the ontology of becoming, but still present their research methodology, and enact their epistemic practices in the language of the representational paradigm, more or less.
For example, as ethnographic practitioners, we collect, order, and describe—indeed, Latour (2004) admonishes his students to 'describe' without really attending to this very practice as such—as if it is natural and self-evident. What are the practices that enact 'describe'? What does the practices of 'describing' do or enact? It is surely not just a description. Latour suggests that we, as researchers, "are in the business of descriptions." If that is so, what is the status of these descriptions that we do, or enact, and how would we know if we are doing it well? Latour suggests that we simply 'describe', and that if it is a 'good' description then it will act (or be an actor). However, we would suggest that 'bad' descriptions could also act—indeed, they may be much more powerful actors (as the Sokal (1999) hoax has shown). This paper is an attempt to reflect on what/how our epistemic practices might become, more creative.
Considering the performativity of our own research practices