Archive for the ‘Social Lab’ Category

230 164, Visiting „the laboratories“ of social sciences: research contexts, methods and questions

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

When we read about the rise of a network society, increasing unemployment rates, or alarming demographic facts that threaten our pension funds, we usually do not ask how this knowledge has been produced, or where it has been created. A central aim of different traditions in Science and Technology Studies is to study knowledge production. Scholars have investigated different cultures and approaches to producing knowledge, have followed scientists on their ways through working places, field trips and conference venues, studied the material cultures of scientific practices and challenged our understanding of the authority of “scientific facts”.

In this seminar we will visit working sites and laboratories of social sciences, - a scientific field rather marginalized by STS so far - to observe and discuss how social scientific knowledge “in the making” is formed by practices, by machines, by locations – and last but not least by the humans who are making use of them, who interact with each other, share some premises on their work, and decide which kinds of research questions are interesting enough to pursue.

This seminar offers glances at the plurality of contemporary social scientific cultures and their respective methodological and discursive practices. We will visit several scientific institutions, meet with scientists in their working environments and get insights into the conditions and requirements of knowledge production: What do scientists do? How do they do it? And how can we as STS researchers study their practices? After each excursion the opportunity to reflect and discuss is given in respective units. As this is not a reading seminar, participants will have to prepare specific questions for each excursion. Students are encouraged to use new media formats when documenting their on site visits.
The two seminars (230 163 Science Cultures: A closer look at research-in-the-making and 230 164 Visiting „the laboratories“ of social sciences: research contexts, methods and questions) have a joint beginning and end. The seminar starts with an introduction to the concept of “science cultures” and the importance of place and locality for science. Depending on prior knowledge and/or interest, students then focus on the natural sciences (230 163) or the social sciences (230 164). It is possible and recommended to participate in one of the excursions of the other course, to explore similarities and differences of the observed fields, maybe even to defy the conventions of the traditional divide into natural sciences on one hand and social sciences and humanities on the other hand.

The seminar aims at establishing a sensitivity towards shared elements of scientific work as well as different knowledge production processes und styles in scientific research in order to enable the development of personal research interests and research questions within the master studies courses. Beyond this, it is open to all students interested in knowledge production processes in the field of social sciences.

(Course: together with Theresa Öhler)