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.
Table of Contents
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)
Bernadette Bensaude Vincent is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at University Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne. Her research topics span from the history and philosophy of chemistry to materials science and nanotechnology with a continuous interest in science and the public issues. Among her recent publications: Chemistry. The Impure Science, (co-author J. Simon, 2008); Matière à penser. (2008). Bionanoéthique (2008), Les Vertiges de la technocience. (2009), Fabriquer la vie. Où va la biologie de synthèse (co-author D. Benoit-Browayes, 2011).
Sacha Loeve is Associate Professor of Philosophy of Technology at University Lyon 3. Since his Ph.D. on molecular nanomachines (2009), he practices a ‘fieldwork philosophy’ centred on objects and primarily interested in rethinking technology as a narrative logos of technics. His publications include works on Gilbert Simondon, nano-objects, images and technology, pharmacotechnology, synthetic biology, Moore’s Law and electronic waste.
Alfred Nordmann is Professor of Philosophy at Darmstadt Technical University, after receiving his Ph.D. in Hamburg (1986) and several years on the faculty at the University of South Carolina (1988-2002). In the field of History and Philosophy of Science and of Technoscience he is interested primarily in the questions of knowledge and objectivity, explanation and understanding under representational and technological conditions of knowledge production, see Science Transformed (co-edited with Hans Radder and Gregor Schiemann, 2011) and Science in the Context Application (co-edited with Martin Carrier, 2011).
Astrid Schwarz holds the chair of General Science of Technology at Brandenburg Technische Universität Cottbus-Senftenberg. In her resarch she asks questions about the status and power of concepts, models, and objects in the process of generating, stabilizing and demarcating scientific knowledge. Recently, she focuses on debates around green cultures and ecotechnology, as well as on gardens as models to act in the Anthropocene. Her last book was Experiments in Practice (2014).