Monday, November 8, 2010

How to think about science

From January to June 2009, CBC Radio's program Ideas aired a series from producer David Cayley, aptly titled How To Think About Science. I didn't manage to catch the episodes when they aired on the radio, but I did download the podcasts, and listened with rapt attention to and from classes during my last year of undergrad. Other than a history of science & technology class I took in the summer of 2006, I'd never thought much about the sociology of scientific knowledge. How to Think About Science changed all of that. David Cayley talks to the leading thinkers in the Science & Technology Studies pantheon -- Steve Shapin & Simon Schaffer, Ian Hacking, Bruno Latour, Peter Galison, and Brian Wynne are all represented, as are more popular names like James Lovelock and David Abrams.

After half a semester of relatively intensive systematic engagement with the STS literature, I've found myself turning back to the series to re-evaluate. My discovery: it stands up on a second, better-informed listening. It's an excellent introduction to STS thinking, sidestepping detailed description of empirical projects in favour of extended meditations on the nature of science, culture, knowledge and social life. Its not everyone's cup of tea, but for both the layperson for whom the series was intended and scholars interested in STS or the history of science and sociology of knowledge more generally, the series is an excellent (re)introduction to the most exciting perspectives in the field. Give it a listen!

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