Drs. Maarten Zeehandelaar

Reflexivity: methodological horror, witty nonsense, the eye within the minds I or all of the above?

Setting: Workshop
Form: Yet to establish
Field: Science Studies
Genre: Anthropology of science, literary studies, philosophy, common sense
Disposition: agnostic, 'relativism', constructivism
Goal: Show and discuss the scope of methodological reflexivity and weigh out its pros and cons for the everyday (scientific, academic) life
Outcome: Uncertain

General outline:
Science produces a good which is commonly known as knowledge. In the exact sciences this product has two basic forms: text and technology. It is no coincidence that before those products spring to live, the starting point is (almost) the same: scientists gather texts (books, theories, data, graphics, maps etc.) and technology (laboratory, machines, measure equipment, computers, but also writing and debating skills etc.). But what exactly is going on in between, when texts produce new texts (or technologies) and technologies produce new technologies (or texts)? This, in a nutshell, is what Science Studies have been analyzing ever since, say, 1970.

One of the problems the so called science students began to realize and take into account, was 'the problem of reflexivity'. Through studying science-in-the-making they discovered that science is an intricate network of multi-layered constructions. Making truth (a.k.a. knowledge) is hard work! There is simply no foundation to be found to base your claims on. The question then arises how and what exactly do scientists represent and furthermore, how to (re)present these 'representers'? Thus the problem of reflexivity appears with a methodological question: the question of representation. Let's presume - as is the notion of the science students - that truth s relative. Shouldn't this relativity be visible in every account of scientific knowledge-production?

The answer, my friend, will not be given. However, a few answers will be discussed: that of Bruno Latour ('infra-reflexivity'), Steven Woolgar ('meta-reflexivity') and Malcolm Ashmore ('new literary forms').

Maarten Zeehandelaar graduated in 2004 at the University of Groningen (Faculty of Philosophy) with a thesis on 'the problem of reflexivity' as discussed and enlightened within Science Studies (thesis in Dutch).