(c) Matilde Igual Capdevila


This session focused on the account by Daniela, Thanos, Johanna and Rosie of some texts put in relation to our visit to HEPHY the week prior.

Daniela presented a chapter (From Machines to Organisms: Detectors as Behavioural and Social Beings) of Knorr-Cetina's book Epistemic Cultures. In the chapter the author studies the language used by scientists working at CERN to address particularly detectors (but not only) and how these metaphors and analogies can help us understand the way such a big instution coheres and sustains itself.
 Through symbolic repertoires, it is mada apparent how the structure of things is reset in epsitemic pactice. Symbols describe who, independent of external definitions, is alive or not alive, who are the organisms and who are the machines, who are the agents with powers and dispositions to react, and who are the passive tools and media in an interaction.
(p. 113)

Some useful notions and references mentioned through the discussion:
Primitive classification ( Durkheim and Mauss)
Symbolic classification
Explanatory principle
Constructivist epistemology
Cognition in the Wild a book by Edwin Hutchins

Thanos followed by introducing us to another chapter of Knorr Cetina's book. This one focuses on the organisation of people participating in High Energy Physics experiments (also at CERN). The author studies how experiments are managed and by whom: how tasks are divided among groups and objects, the relationships among them, the discourse spaces created through the intersection of the participants, the different hierarchies (if any), the different kinds of meetings, the role of review panels and steering groups as well as the schedules and time-frames.

Some useful notions and references mentioned through the discussion:
Peter Drucker
Collective consciousness (Durkheim)
Tacit knowledge (Michael Polanyi)
Leviathan and the air-pump: Hobber, Boyle and the Experimental Life. By Steven Shapin and Simon Schaffer.

While these two texts were directly connected to our year's topic (HEP and CERN), the third one addresses more geenrally the topic of Isolation in scientific research, how the places of knowledge production have for centuries progressively retreated from the world. As Michel Callon explains in Secluded Research (the second chapter of Acting in an uncertain world : An essay on technical democracy by Michel Callon, Pierre Lascoumes and Yannick Barthe) the difference between specialists and laypersons was not always that clear. The authors take the example of Astronomy to illustrate the historical development of the relations between amateurs and experts, the world and the lab.
As Johanna and Rosie showed us there is also a process of three translations ( developped historically, and now present overall in scientific practice) going from the macrocosm of the real world, to the microcosm of the lab where things are simplified, and ultimately translated back to the world.

Some useful notions and references mentioned through the discussion:
Fabricated Data
Regime of curiosity
Sociology of translation
Circulating references (Bruno Latour)
Pasteurisation of France (Bruno Latour)

Fact Box

November 15, 2016
Hohenstaufengasse 9