Drs. Maarten Zeehandelaar
Reflexivity: methodological horror, witty nonsense, the eye within the
minds I or all of the above?
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
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 ís 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).