Science & Technology Studies (STS) is kind of a narrow field, but it comprises quite a diverse set of theories that can be kinda hard to keep in your head at one time. One STS idea I quite like is Sheila Jasanoff’s concept of Co-production, which like much work in STS, attempts to reconcile human agency (the social) with technological determinism. This resolution is achieved by saying that both produce each other, in a bit of circular logic that’s similar to how Giddens solves for subjective/objective duality using a form of recursion.

In her introduction to States of Knowledge, Jasanoff has a nice short segment that sums up a set of STS theories in the context of co-production, that I think is useful for thinking about STS more generally (Jasanoff, 2006, pp. 5–6). I wanted to jot it down here in case I go searching for a neat packaging of STS… and I also wanted to make sure I had these books in my BibTeX database :-)

Several recurrent and partially overlapping preoccupations in STS scholarship offer a means of organization (and, in the future fostering) work in the co-productionist idiom.

The first has to do with emergence and stabilization of new objects or phenomena; how people recognize them, name them, investigate them, and assign meaning to them; and how they mark them off from other existing entities, creating new languages in which to speak of them and new ways of visually representing them (Daston, 2000; Dear, 1995; Latour, 1988, 1993 ; Pickering, 2005 ).

The second concerns the framing and resolution of controversy. Under this heading, a large body of STS research has looked at the practices and processes by which one set of ideas gains supremacy over competing, possibly better established ones, or fails to do so (Collins, 1985; Martin & Richards, 1995 ; Shapin, 1985 ).

The third important line of research centers on the intelligibility and portability of the products of science and technology across time, place and institutional contexts. Topics under this heading range from the standardization of measures and analytic tools to the formation of new communities of practice, such as expert witnesses, who are capable of endowing claims with credibility as they are transported across different cultures of production and interpretation (Bowker & Star, 1999 ; Jasanoff, 1995 ; Kuhn, 1962; Latour, 1987 ; Porter, 1992 ; Shapin, 1994 ).

The fourth significant tradition examines the cultural practices of science and technology in contexts that endow them with legitimacy and meaning. Work in this vein has asked how the supposed universality of facts and artifacts fares in disparate political and cultural settings, as well as how different domains of research and development acquire and retain particular cultural characteristics (Knorr-Cetina, 1999 ; Rabinow, 1996 ; Traweek, 1988).

References

Bowker, G. C., & Star, S. L. (1999). Classification and its consequences. MIT Press.

Collins, H. (1985). Changing order:Replication and induction in scientific practice. Sage.

Daston, L. (2000). Biographies of scientific objects. University of Chicago Press.

Dear, P. (1995). Discipline and experience: THe mathematical way in the scientific revolution. University of Chicago Press.

Jasanoff, S. (1995). Science at the bar: Law, science and technology in America. Harvard University Press.

Jasanoff, S. (2006). States of knowledge: The co-production of science and the social order. Routledge.

Knorr-Cetina, K. (1999). Epistemic cultures: How the sciences make knowledge. Harvard University Press.

Kuhn, T. (1962). The structure of scientific revolutions. University of Chicago Press.

Latour, B. (1987). Science in action: How to follow scientists and engineers through society. Harvard University Press.

Latour, B. (1988). The politics of explanation: An alternative. In Knowledge and reflexivity: New frontiers in the sociology of knowledge (pp. 155–176). Sage.

Latour, B. (1993). We have never been modern. Harvard University Press.

Martin, B., & Richards, E. (1995). Scientific knowledge, controversy, and public decision making. In S. Jasanoff, G. E. Markle, J. C. Petersen, & T. Pinch (Eds.), Handbook of science and technology studies (pp. 506–526). Sage.

Pickering, A. (2005). The mangle of practice: Time, agency, and science. University of Chicago Press.

Porter, T. (1992). Objectivity as standardization: The rhetoric of impersonality in measurement statistics and cost benefit analysis. Annals of Scholarship, 9, 19–59.

Rabinow, P. (1996). Making PCR: A story of biotechnology. University of Chicago Press.

Shapin, S. (1985). Leviathan and the air-pump: Hobbes, boyle, and the experimental life. Princeton University Press.

Shapin, S. (1994). A social history of truth: Civility and science in 17th century England. University of Chicago Press.

Traweek, S. (1988). Beamtimes and lifetimes: The world of high energy physicists. Harvard University Press.