After method : mess in social science research by John Law

By John Law

John legislations argues that equipment do not simply describe social realities yet also are fascinated by growing them. the consequences of this argument are hugely major. if so, tools are consistently political, and it increases the query of what varieties of social realities we wish to create.

Most present tools search for readability and precision. it's always acknowledged that in basic terms negative study produces messy findings, and the concept issues on the planet could be fluid, elusive, or a number of is unthinkable. Law's startling argument is this is inaccurate and it's time for a brand new procedure. Many realities, he says, are imprecise and ephemeral. If tools need to know and support to form the realm, then they should reinvent themselves and their politics to accommodate mess. that's the problem. not anything much less will do.

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1986, 64) This, then, is their fifth point. It is that particular realities are constructed by particular inscription devices and practices. Let me emphasise that: realities are being constructed. Not by people. But in the practices made possible by networks of elements that make up the inscription device – and the networks of elements within which that inscription device resides. The realities, they are saying, simply don’t exist without their matching inscription devices. And, implicitly at least, they are also saying that such inscription devices – and even more so their particular products – are elaborate and networked arrangements that are more or less uncertain, more or less able to hold together, and more or less precarious.

And, as a part of this they tend to change in their material form: Scientific practices 33 The mass spectrometer is the reified part of a whole field of physics; it is an actual piece of furniture which incorporates the majority of an earlier body of scientific activity. (1986, 242) So why and how do they change their material form? A part of the answer is that it is easier to produce statements about realities – easier to produce realities – when these take standardised and transportable forms. Latour and Woolgar talk of reification, but perhaps the notion of routinisation better draws attention to what is most important.

40 Kuhn works by means of exemplary historical cases and his argument defies easy summary. For him exemplars are lessons on how to see and understand the world. To be a scientist is to work through cases. Quick accounts don’t get to the heart of things at all.

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