After method : mess in social science research by John Law

By John Law

John legislation argues that equipment do not simply describe social realities yet also are focused on developing 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 equipment search for readability and precision. it's always acknowledged that simply terrible learn produces messy findings, and the concept issues on this 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 strategy. Many realities, he says, are imprecise and ephemeral. If tools need to know and aid to form the realm, then they should reinvent themselves and their politics to house mess. that's the problem. not anything much less will do.

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The thing and the statement correspond for the simple reason that they come from the same source. Their separation is only the final stage in the process of their construction. (1986, 183) The result is a sense of a world that is out-there in far more than the primitive or originary sense. It is an out-thereness that is also assumed to be independent of and prior, anterior, to our scientific attempts to know it. It is assumed to be definite – even if we do not yet know that definite form because we have not acquired the methods we need to know it.

Definiteness: does external reality come as a set of definite forms and relations? Again, the answer is both yes and no. Where statements fit together and reinforce one another the corresponding objects are named and acquire a definite form. Where this does not happen they do not. And, as Latour and Woolgar show, though the aim of the game is to make definite statements that correspond to definite realities, much of the time scientific inquiry deals with uncertainty, fuzziness and undecidability. An example: Latour and Woolgar describe the way that for a seven-year period starting in 1962 there was uncertainty about the existence and the character of a substance of particular interest to the Salk endocrinologists which came to be known as TRF.

It also suggests that as the process goes along it becomes more and more difficult and expensive to ignore or to undo the routines and create others and alternative realities. Latour and Woolgar again: Once a large number of arguments have become incorporated into a black box, the cost of raising alternatives to them becomes prohibitive. It is unlikely, for example, that anyone will contest the wiring of the computer . . or the statistics on which the ‘t’ test is based, or the name of the vessels in the pituitary.

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