13.0478 conventions; scientific practice

From: Humanist Discussion Group (willard@lists.village.virginia.edu)
Date: Thu Mar 09 2000 - 22:51:30 CUT

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 13, No. 478.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

       [1] From: Tony Meadow <tmeadow@bearriver.com> (22)
             Subject: Re: 13.0474 conventions? formal methods/scientific

       [2] From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk> (45)
             Subject: science

             Date: Thu, 09 Mar 2000 22:28:38 +0000
             From: Tony Meadow <tmeadow@bearriver.com>
             Subject: Re: 13.0474 conventions? formal methods/scientific practice?


    >For my thesis I'm trying to collect as many citations as possible that relate
    >to convention, norm, tradition, patterns and rules and where these apply to
    >language and social behaviour. The main idea behind what I do is that people
    >follow conventions in language even when the form or genre of the language is
    >very recent (web - hypertext).
    >So far I have quite a nice collection ranging from Saussure to Gideon Toury,
    >Vygotsky to Lawrence Lessig, Josh Cohen to Itamar Even-Zohar, etc. (I know
    >some ideas are considered -- historically -- greater than others - but I do
    >want a good range of fields, interests and opinions). I would consider ANY
    >citation, even remotely related, and will post a summary back to the list
    >after putting them all together.

    You might want to look into ethnomethodology, a school of sociology that
    was current some years ago when I was an undergraduate. As I recall, they
    were concerned with the social construction of everyday life, with the
    learned but unspoken assumptions about the structure of everyday life and
    so on. The one name that I remember (perhaps not correctly) is Samson
    Garfinkel who was then at UCLA.

    Tony Meadow
    Bear River Associates, Inc., 505 14th Street, Suite 600, Oakland, CA 94612
    Telephone: 510 834 5300 ext 108 Fax: 510 834 5396
    Internet: tmeadow@bearriver.com Web: http://www.bearriver.com

             Date: Thu, 09 Mar 2000 22:29:03 +0000
             From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk>
             Subject: science

    In Humanist 13.474, Richard Giordano asks in response to the announcement
    of the Colloquium at King's College London in 13.470,

    >Is there a difference between a formal method and a structured method?
    >Are the use of structured methods more appropriate in this regard?
    >Why is scientific investigation privileged? Are methods of design and
    >investigation in technology as appropriate as science?

    Since I don't know what a "structured method" is, I cannot even take a run
    at the first two questions, but perhaps others would like to. I'd need the
    idea of "investigation in technology" explained to me, if this is different
    from applied science or the research end of engineering, and would need to
    know "appropriate for what?" But I'd like to comment on the privileging of
    scientific investigation, since this very much bears on the Colloquium and
    at least some of the thinking behind it.

    One of our speakers, Harry Collins, has worked hard and effectively at
    doing just the opposite, i.e. to quote from his very fine book Changing
    Order: Replication and Induction in Scientific Practice (Chicago, 1992),
    its purpose is "to bring science to the same epistemological level as other
    knowledge making activities" (p. 185) by showing the social processes
    involved. The phrase "social construction" is enough to start a fight these
    days in some circles and so is perilous to use, but at least generically
    that's what Collins is involved with in his studies of scientific practice,
    along with several others. I recommend Ian Hacking's The Social
    Construction of What? (Harvard, 1999) for guidance through the trenches of
    the culture wars. His book Representing and Intervening (Cambridge, 1983)
    furnishes a powerful philosophical argument that focuses on experiment, and
    so helps to make the sciences much more readily accessible as imaginative,
    creative disciplines. Forgive me for thumping once more Peter Galison's
    Image and Logic for the focus on "all that grubby, unplatonic equipment",
    from which he pulls a thrilling intellectual history which tells not an
    insignificant part of our story.

    If drawing attention to the sciences is to privilege them, then mea culpa.
    One of the motivations behind the Colloquium is to explore the possibility
    that we might have friends among the philosophers, historians and
    sociologists of science, that there just might be some useful analytic
    tools we could adapt to our purposes. I still think it's an interesting
    question why we don't have a philosophy or sociology or history of the
    humanities in anything like the same sense. Perhaps now that research in
    the humanities is externalised via the computer, there is an intellectual
    object to be studied, and so we will be studied. I sure hope so.

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
    Dr. Willard McCarty, Senior Lecturer, King's College London
    voice: +44 (0)171 848 2784 fax: +44 (0)171 848 5081
    <Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk> <http://ilex.cc.kcl.ac.uk/wlm/>
    maui gratia

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