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Technoscience is a concept widely used in the interdisciplinary community of science and technology studies to designate the technological and social context of science. The notion indicates a common recognition that scientific knowledge is not only socially coded and historically situated but sustained and made durable by material (non-human) networks.
“Technoscience” is a term coined by Belgian philosopher Gilbert Hottois in the late 1970s.



[edit] Conceptual levels of technoscience

We look at the concept of technoscience by considering three levels: a descriptive-analytic level, a deconstructivist level, and a visionary level.[1]
On a descriptive-analytic level, technoscientific studies examine the decisive role of science and technology in how knowledge is being developed. What is the role played by large research labs in which experiments on organisms are undertaken, when it comes to a certain way of looking at the things surrounding us? To what extent do such investigations, experiments and insights shape the view on ‘nature’, and on ‘our’ bodies? How do these insights link to the concept of living organisms as biofacts? To what extent do such insights inform technological innovation? Can the laboratory be understood as a metaphor for social structures in their entirety?
On a deconstructive level, theoretical work is being undertaken on technoscience to address scientific practices critically, e.g. by Bruno Latour (Sociology), by Donna Haraway (History of science), and by Karen Barad (Theoretical physics). It is pointed out that scientific descriptions may be only allegedly objective; that descriptions are of a performative character, and that there are ways to de-mystify them. Likewise, new forms of representing those involved in research are being sought.
On a visionary level, the concept of technoscience comprises a number of social, literary, artistic and material technologies from western cultures in the third millennium. This is undertaken in order to focus on the interplay of hitherto separated areas and to question traditional boundary-drawing: this concerns the boundaries drawn between scientific disciplines as well as those commonly upheld for instance between research, technology, the arts and politics. One aim is to broaden the term ‘technology’ (which by the Greek etymology of ‘techné’ connotes all of the following: arts, handicraft, and skill) so as to negotiate possibilities of participation in the production of knowledge and to reflect on strategic alliances. Technoscience can be juxtaposed with a number of other innovative interdisciplinary areas of scholarship which have surfaced in these recent years such as technoetic, technoethics and technocriticism.

[edit] Critique of technoscience

A primary critique of technoscience is that it targets a ‘straw man’ construction of science. That is, contemporary philosophy of science typically takes a pragmatic and instrumental view of objectivity. From this perspective, what is objective is what can be measured, transfers to other contexts, and can be used to make predictions. This is not different from the performative view of objectivity preferred by technoscience, leaving technoscience with a critique of a naive view of science that many, if not most, contemporary scientists would not agree with.
The concept of material networks is also ontologically unclear and somewhat archaic, depending upon a material/ideal dichotomy that has largely been abandoned, by both scientists and philosophers, during the latter half of the twentieth century.
Finally, the boundaries separating traditional scientific areas have also been increasingly blurred in scientific practice during the course of the twentieth century, with many knowledge fields now being fundamentally trans-disciplinary. Many traditional areas of science, such as biology, zoology and botany, have been superseded by more systemic conceptions, such as eco-sciences and approaches that integrate older conceptions of nature with conceptions in which relationships between human activity (production, economics, politics, etc.) and non-human biology are in focus. Today, multi-disciplinary approaches are often a condition for research funding.
These considerations question the current relevance of technoscience, seeing its critique as belonging perhaps to a 1970s view of science, its philosophical foundations having been superseded by post-structuralism, and its vision as merely descriptive of what most contemporary scientists and technologists take for granted.


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