What kind of stuff is the world made of? What is the nature or substance of things? These are ontological questions, and they are usually answered with respect to the objects of science. The objects of technoscience tell a different story that concerns the power, promise and potential of things – not what they are but what they can be. Seventeen scholars from history and philosophy of science, epistemology, social anthropology, cultural studies and ethics each explore a research object in its technological setting, ranging from carbon to cardboard, from arctic ice cores to nuclear waste, from wetlands to GMO seeds, from fuel cells to the great Pacific garbage patch. Together they offer fascinating stories and novel analytic concepts, all the while opening up a space for reflecting on the specific character of technoscientific objects. With their promise of sustainable innovation and a technologically transformed future, these objects are highly charged with values and design expectations. By clarifying their mode of existence, we are learning to come to terms more generally with the furniture of the technoscientific world – where, for example, the 'dead matter' of classical physics is becoming the 'smart material' of emerging and converging technologies.
Introduction: The genesis and ontology of technoscientific objects Part One: Horizon of Possibilities 1. The pyramid and the ring: A physics indifferent to ontology (Peter Galison) 2. Cancer stem cells: Ontology matters (Lucie Laplane) 3. Robots behaving badly: Simulation and participation in the study of life (Christopher Kelty) 4. Vanishing friction events and the inverted platonism of technoscience (Alfred Nordmann) 5. From the birth of fuel cells to the utopia of the hydrogen world (Pierre Teissier) Part Two: Arenas of contestation 6. Heroin: Taming a drug and losing control (Jens Soentgen) 7. Long live play: The Playstation network and technogenic life (Colin Milburn) 8. A biography of a disorder that didn’t want to be diagnosed (Simone van den Burg) 9. The plasticity and recalcitrance of wetlands (Kevin C. Elliott) 10. The life and times of transgenics (Hugh Lacey) 11. Cardboard: Thinking the box (Cheryce von Xylander) Part Three: Multiple temporalities 12. The multiple signatures of carbon (Sacha Loeve and Bernadette Bensaude Vincent) 13. Monitoring and remediating a garbage patch (Jennifer Gabrys) 14. Polar ice cores: Climate change messengers (Aant Elzinga) 15. Nuclear waste: An untreatable technoscientific product (Sophie Poirot-Delpech) 16. Biography of a ‘sand heap’: Staging the beginnings of nature (Astrid Schwarz)
Even though technoscientific research is as old as alchemy and pharmacy, agricultural research and synthetic chemistry, philosophers of science had little to say about it until recently. This book series is the first to explicitly accept the challenge to study not just technical aspects of theory development and hypothesis testing but the specific ways in which knowledge is produced in a technological setting. When one seeks to achieve basic capabilities of manipulation, visualization, or predictive control, how are problems defined and research fields established, what kinds of explanations are sought, how are findings validated, what are the contributions of different kinds of expertise, how do epistemic and social values enter into the research process? And most importantly for civic observers of contemporary research: how is robustness and reliability achieved even in the absence of complete scientific understanding?
Editorial Board: Hanne Andersen (University of Copenhagen), Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent (University of Paris, Sorbonne), Martin Carrier (University of Bielefeld), Graeme Gooday (University of Leeds), Don Howard (University of Notre Dame), Ann Johnson (Cornell University), Cyrus Mody (Maastricht University), Maureen O'Malley (University of Sydney), Roger Strand (University of Bergen), Nancy Tuana (Pennsylvania State University).