Relevance of Theory in STS

On friday and saturday I participated at a small, well organised STS-workshop on „(In)Stabilities – Processuality in STS“ in Darmstadt/Germany. Participants came from cultural anthropology and ethnology, sociology, English and American Studies. The papers presented were all really interesting, but in my opinion most of them shared one crucial problem: a lack of theory or, at least, they lacked a connection of empirical research with theory. One of the papers even addressed the question, if it is even helpful to ‘superimpose’ theoretical terms and concepts on empirical research/findings. And that really made me think: What relevance has theory in/for STS? What function does theory have in STS? Is STS more about „thick descriptions“ than on theorizing about empirical phenomena? And how do you get a description of empirical findings that is more than just renarration, without using theoretical terms and concepts? What is the additional benefit of renarrating? So, once again: A naive newcomer to STS ‘lost in translation’…Please help.

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About Nicholas

Associate Professor of Sociology, Environmental Studies, and Science and Technology Studies at Penn State, Nicholas mainly writes about understanding the scientific study of states and, thus, it is namely about state theory. Given his training in sociology and STS, he takes a decidedly STS-oriented approach to state theory and issues of governance.

One thought on “Relevance of Theory in STS

  1. I’m a bit in a hurry, so I just give you names and the paper’s titles. If you are interested in one of the papers in particular I could give further details.Okay, here we go ??? I really gave my best translating the titles of the presentations. Sometimes it’s really more freely than literally… But first of all: The workshop was organized by Katharina Kinder-Kurlanda (Lancaster University), Carsten Ochs (Universitaet Giessen) and Christian Vogel (currently holds a grant of Cusanus, if I remember it correctly).–There were two keynotes, one by Andreas Langenohl (Universitaet Giessen) and one by Michael Schillmeier (LMU Munich). In his talk titled ???Wohin mit ‘Kultur’ in den Science and Technology Studies??? (???How can we deal with ‘culture’ in STS???) Andreas Langenohl compared aspects of ANT with ideas of Naoki Sakai. Michael Schillmeier talked about Gabriel Tarde’s work and its relevance for STS ??? ???Angenommen: ‘Alle Dinge sind Gesellschaften’ ??? Monadologisches Denken jenseits des ‘Entweder Oder’??? (???Let’s assume all things are societies ??? Monadologic thinking beyond of either/or???.???Holger Braun-Thuermann (Hamburg): ???Kurven, Zyklen, Preise, Speicher ??? der globale Klimawandel und die Karbonisierung der Gesellschaft??? (???Curves, cycles, prices, storages ??? climate change and the carbonization of society???). Wiebke Pohler (Eichstaett): ???Biografien nanomedizinischer Forschungsobjekte ??? Ein Beitrag zur sozialwissenschaftlichen Wissenschafts- und Innovationsforschung??? (???Biografies of nanomedical research objects ??? A contribution of social sciences to science and innovation studies???). Marcel Endres (Darmstadt): ???There’s no place like nowhere ??? Zur soziodynamischen Ambivalenz von Praktiken und Dispositiven r??umlicher Mobilit??t??? (???… – On the sociodynamic ambivalence of practices and apparatuses of spatial mobility???).Martin Deschauer (Frankfurt): ???Die Instabilit??t epistemischer Objekte ??? STS und Neurowissenschaften??? (???The instability of epistemic objects ??? STS and the neurosciences???).Christian Knirsch (Mannheim): ???Paradigmenwechsel, Evolution, Prozessualit??t: Erkenntnistheorie als (meta-)wissenschaftliche trading zone??? (???Paradigm shift, evolution, processuality: Epistemology as (meta-)scientific trading zone???).Petra Ilyes (Frankfurt): ???’Processes of entanglement’ ??? am Beispiel der Ko-Entwicklung einer Online-Lernumgebung??? (??? – Using the example of co-design of an e-learning platform???)

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