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Research technology: Instrumentation between science, state and industry

Bernward Joerges and Terry Shinn

No FS II 00-503, Discussion Papers, Research Group Metropolitan City Studies from WZB Berlin Social Science Center

Abstract: This paper explores a little studied arena that exists between science and technology, an arena in which a singular and important variety of open-ended, multipurpose instrumentation is developed by practitioners (neither scientist nor engineer, call them researchtechnologists) for use in academia, industry, state metrology and technical services, and considerably beyond. The generic instrumentation designed in this almost subterraneously institutionalized/professionalized, interstitial arena fuels both science and engineering work. This involves intermittent crossings of the boundaries that demarcate and protect the conventional cognitive and artefact cultures familiar to many historians and sociologists. Research-technologists thereby comprise a distinctive (but never distinct) transverse science and technology culture that generates a species of pragmatic universality, which in turn provides multiple and diversified audiences with a common repertory of vocabularies, notational systems, images and perhaps even paradigms. Researchtechnology practitioners deliver a lingua-franca that contributes to cognitive, material and social cohesion. Research-technology is about the complementarity between boundarycrossing and the stability/maintenance of boundaries.

Date: 2000
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