Socio-Technical Seminar Series Event

17:00 - 18:30
Venue: Leeds University Business School. Room 1.05

Seeing and knowing in the laboratory: reflecting on science studies methods

Dr Lisa Garforth
Newcastle University

Laboratories have become very important in contemporary studies of science and technology (STS) as places where social scientists can observe the emergence of knowledge from collective experimental practices.

Key science studies texts feature powerful rhetorics of witnessing and revelation. Laboratory studies have foregrounded the value of seeing ‘science in action’ and epistemologies of vision. But when the social scientist is in the laboratory, the actual practice of seeing science work can be difficult, and knowledge is uncertain. Observing science work is negotiated and partial.

Knowledge practices that are invisible can be just as important as those that are seen. This seminar draws on empirical findings generated in bioscience labs and social science offices to explore how scientists and academics can resist the researcher’s observational gaze and mark aspects of their work as private and solitary. It reflects on processes of seeing and knowing in the laboratory to problematize metaphors of vision in STS and reopen questions of how we can understand practices of individual thinking.

About the speaker

Lisa Garforth has been a lecturer in Sociology at Newcastle University since 2009 where she teaches social theory, gender and research methods, and cultural and environmental sociology. From 2006 to 2008 she was co-investigator on the UK part of the KNOWING project, a European comparative study of gender and knowledge production. Her work in this area has focused particularly on how different kinds of knowledge work are valued and gendered.

She is interested in feminist epistemologies in contemporary science studies, and in the relationships between practices of knowing and the organisational contexts in which they take place. She is also interested in more generally in the social science methodologies through which we can study science in action.

Lisa has published on this work with Prof Anne Kerr (University of Leeds) in journals including the British Journal of Sociology and Sociological Research Online; our most recent work, ‘Affective practice in the biosciences: a study of two laboratories’ has been submitted to Social Studies of Science.

With European colleagues she published on gender and science careers, and on contesting dominant Anglo-US models of understanding and auditing science (special issue of Science, Technology and Human Values co-edited with Tereza Stockelova, Charles University, Prague).

Please email, or call 0113 343 1908, for more information.

Next Seminar – 7th May 2014 - Speaker TBC

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