Archives For absences

Author Information: Adam Riggio, Independent Scholar and Writer, adamriggio@gmail.com

Riggio, Adam. “Can We Redeem Academia’s Worst Contempt?” [1] Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 5, no. 4 (2016): 13-21.

The PDF of the article gives specific page numbers. Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1Bfg0-2Pi

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Image credit: Arild Storaas, via flickr

Present Conflict, Future Sorrows

The mid-2010s will be remembered as the years when the last sanities of the West finally fell apart. The phrase is a poetry of hyperbole, but as a sweeping generalization sadly accurate. Criticism in wider culture had lost its purpose of progressive, reformist improvement. Everything short of perfection became grounds for denunciation. And with so many different visions of perfection, no one could survive without terrible wounds.

But I don’t blame the internet. It still holds so much promise. As does humanity, as we shall see.  Continue Reading…

Author Information: Stephen Hilgartner, Cornell University, shh6@cornell.edu

Hilgartner, Stephen. “Studying Absences of Knowledge: Difficult Subfield or Basic Sensibility?” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 3, no. 12 (2014): 84-88.

The PDF of the article gives specific page numbers. Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1Bfg0-1Mb

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Image credit: Bill Richards, via flickr

The articles in this special issue make a strong case that studying absences of knowledge is important for the field of Science and Technology Studies (STS). As single works and through the literature that they cite, they also illustrate how STS is increasingly framing absences of knowledge as an understudied and especially difficult topic (Rappert and Bauchspies 2014). I fully support paying more attention to absences of knowledge, and have long argued for doing so (e.g., Hilgartner 2001). However, I am unconvinced that the study of absences should be framed as a specialized “topic” or “area” or that radically new methods are needed to pursue it. Absences are too fundamental to the social aspects of knowledge to be imagined as a mere subfield. Instead, a broad sensibility attuned to the significance of absences should (and in many ways already does) inflect a wide range of STS research.  Continue Reading…

Author Information: Jaime McCauley, Northern Kentucky University, mccauleyj1@nku.edu

McCauley, Jaime. “Using Institutional Ethnography to Examine the Social Organization of Absence.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 3, no. 8 (2014): 22-27.

The PDF of the article gives specific page numbers. Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1Bfg0-1zk

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Introduction

The study of absences of knowledge is inherently bound up with questions of power and justice. Asking “What is known, and to whom?” implies that some of us have some power to conceal or reveal what is known to others. Indeed, power and justice are a recurring theme in the Social Epistemology special issue on “absence”: Scott Frickel describes absence as “bound up in the moral economies of societies” (86), Jennifer Croissant recognizes absence as “overdetermined by power relations” (11), and justice is central in Dimitri Papadopoulos’ “politics of matter” (77). In this critical reply, I take up these assertions about the relationship between power and justice and of knowing and not knowing. I seek to complement the arguments made in these papers by illustrating the potential contribution of institutional ethnography as a sociological approach to examining both the contours of absence, and the power relations behind that which is known and unknown. In this illustration, I apply institutional ethnography to my research on volunteer water quality monitoring.  Continue Reading…

Author Information: Gwen Ottinger, Drexel University, ottinger@drexel.edu

Ottinger, Gwen. “Absence and Expectation.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 3, no. 8 (2014): 10-12.

The PDF of the article gives specific page numbers. Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1Bfg0-1yw

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Expectation as the Source of Absence

In his provocative article, “Absences: Methodological Note on Nothing, in Particular” (2014), Scott Frickel outlines the limitations of STS research on absences. His critique, as I understand it, is three-fold: First, researchers have overwhelmingly focused on relative absences—“‘things that are not here’ but were once, or have become hidden, or are somewhere else”—to the neglect of absolute absences, “things that are not there or anywhere else and probably never were” (87-88). Second, studies that approach absolute absences, in particular studies of “undone science,” study not the absences themselves but the activities of the actors that bring them to light. Third, researchers’ approach to absences, especially those that are absolute, have been insufficiently empirical, and, as such, have not brought us any closer to a generalizable understanding of what causes absences, where we can expect them to occur, or what their systemic consequences are.  Continue Reading…

Author Information: Brian Martin, University of Wollongong, bmartin@uow.edu.au

Martin, Brian. “Constructing and Investigating Absences in Knowledge.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 3, no. 5 (2014): 73-81.

The PDF of the article gives specific page numbers. Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1Bfg0-1r2

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Images of Absence

When we think of presence and absence, what mental image comes to mind? Consider the differences between absence as a body covered by clothing and absence as a field before a building is constructed. A body has a fair degree of continuity: from one encounter to the next, the body is much the same, though perhaps dressed differently. We know that a body exists, and we can imagine what it would look like. Is this a useful metaphor for the particular absence of knowledge called undone science (Frickel 2014), namely research that citizen campaigners would like to be carried out but hasn’t been? Continue Reading…

Author Information: Abby Kinchy, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, kincha@rpi.edu

Kinchy, Abby. “Explaining Absolute Absences: A Critical Reply to Scott Frickel.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 3, no. 4 (2014): 24-29.

The PDF of the article gives specific page numbers. Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1Bfg0-1nO

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In science and technology studies, the recent turn to studies of ignorance (including secrecy, suppression of research agendas, and abandoned knowledge) has offered new ways of revealing that “things could have been otherwise”. In his insightful contribution on how to study what is absent in modern technoscience practice, Scott Frickel observes that most of the new research in this vein considers “’things that are not there’ but were there once, or have become hidden, or are somewhere else” (Frickel 2014, 87). In contrast, however, he calls on us to attend to “absolute” absences, the “things that are not there or anywhere else and probably never were” (87-88). Continue Reading…