Rupture and Flow: The Circulation of Technoscientific Facts and Objects

Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Sawyer Seminar on the Comparative Study of Cultures
Indiana University, Bloomington

Reversing the flow (April 2011)

Leader: Rebecca Lave (Geography)

Claims to scientific expertise have been a catalyst of conflict and a source of power for centuries as scientists draw and redraw the boundaries of science to bolster their authority (Gieryn 1999, Delborne 2008). The increasing distrust of science characteristic of the last half century, however, has led to new forms of contestation of scientific authority (Beck 1992). Lay people, traditionally seen as the consumers of scientific applications, have become increasingly credible producers of scientific knowledge, both basic and applied.

This pre-emption of the traditional sources of production of scientific knowledge - universities and publicly-funded research agencies - takes a range of forms. The R&D branches of private corporations develop new methods for creating genetically modified organisms, indigenous groups patent crop varieties developed over thousands of years, and "citizen scientists" collect a wealth of long-term ecological data. What all of these cases share is a reversal of the expected circulation pattern of scientific knowledge and applications. This theme will focus on the politics of knowledge circulation, exploring questions about the social and material production of scientific expertise, including:

  1. How are the changing boundaries between the scientific establishment and lay-produced science shifting what is acknowledged and implemented in scientific practice and policy?
  2. What role do produced materials such as classifications, models, short courses, and guidelines for practice play in the pre-emption of scientific expertise by lay people?
  3. What makes some fields more open and/or vulnerable to such shifts in the center of scientific power?
  4. What are the implications of this reversal of flow for the conduct of science, and the formation of policy?


Reversing the Flow

March 25
Discussion of Melissa Leach and James Fairhead, Manners of Contestation: "Citizen Science" and "Indigenous Knowledge" in West Africa and the Caribbean and
Ronald Barnett, Re-opening Research: New Amateurs or New Professionals?

April 8
Rebecca Lave, Philip Mirowski and Samuel Randalls, "Introduction: STS and Neoliberal Science" Social Studies of Science 2010 40: 659 and
Benjamin Cohen and Gwen Ottinger, "Introduction: Environmental Justice and the Transformation of Science and Engineering"

April 22 and 23
Capstone Seminar

All events will take place in Student Building 05

April 22
Phil Mirowski (Notre Dame University)
The Modern Commercialization of Science is a Passel of Ponzi Schemes

April 23
Ramesh Srinivasan (University of California, Los Angeles)
Multiple Ways of Thinking and Knowing: New Media as Mutable [Abstract]

Eric Deibel (Indiana University)
Common Genomes: DNA in informatic formats and open source in biology [Abstract]

Gwen Ottinger (University of Washington-Bothell)
Oxbows and Eddies: Understanding How Community-Based Air Monitoring Has Affected Environmental Policy and Practice [Abstract]

Break for lunch

Rebecca Lave (Indiana University)
Free Range Science: Constructing environmental science outside the academy [Abstract]

Sam Randalls (University College London)
An optimal climate: meteorology, commercialization and efficiency [Abstract]

Discussion by Phil Mirowski (University of Notre Dame)