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Forty Years after Laboratory Life

Havstad, Joyce C. (2019) Forty Years after Laboratory Life. Philosophy, Theory, and Practice in Biology, 12 (003). ISSN 2475-3025

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Abstract

There is an ongoing and robust tradition of science and technology studies (STS) scholars conducting ethnographic laboratory studies. These laboratory studies—like all ethnographies—are each conducted at a particular time, are situated in a particular place, and are about a particular (scientific) culture. Presumably, this contextual specificity means that such ethnographies have limited applicability beyond the narrow slice of time, place, and culture that they each subject to examination. But we (STS scholars) do not always or even often treat them that way. It is beyond common for us to speak about what one or another laboratory study reveals about the laboratory, or “science” much more broadly. Given the contextual specificity of our ethnographic laboratory studies, what justifies this presumed generalizability? Initially, this manuscript surveys typical responses to this question, but then it pursues an unusual one: the potential replicability of ethnographic results. This potential is hereby explored, via an ethnographic replication attempt—one designed and conducted in order to test the generalizability of a particular laboratory study, that of Latour and Woolgar’s classic Laboratory Life (1979). The results of the ethnographic replication attempt are reported, and a remarkable degree of replicability is established.


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Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Havstad, Joyce C.jhavstad@oakland.edu
Additional Information: ISSN: 1949-0739 (print)
Keywords: Ethnography; Generalizability; Laboratory Life; Laboratory studies; Replicability; Science and technology studies
Subjects: General Issues > History of Science Case Studies
General Issues > Science and Society
General Issues > Social Epistemology of Science
General Issues > Theory/Observation
Depositing User: Jordan Miller
Date Deposited: 24 Jul 2020 15:54
Last Modified: 27 Jul 2020 14:27
Item ID: 17653
Journal or Publication Title: Philosophy, Theory, and Practice in Biology
Official URL: https://quod.lib.umich.edu/p/ptpbio/16039257.0012....
DOI or Unique Handle: 10.3998/ptpbio.16039257.0012.003
Subjects: General Issues > History of Science Case Studies
General Issues > Science and Society
General Issues > Social Epistemology of Science
General Issues > Theory/Observation
Date: 24 May 2019
Volume: 12
Number: 003
ISSN: 2475-3025
URI: http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/17653

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