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Representation in Scientific Practice Revisited$
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Catelijne Coopman, Janet Vertesi, Michaeland Lynch, and Steve Woolgar

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780262525381

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262525381.001.0001

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(p.317) 15 Preface
Representation in Scientific Practice Revisited

Steve Woolgar

The MIT Press

This chapter comprises brief commentaries by seven authors with long-standing and formative roles in studies of representational practice. Lorraine Daston speaks of intractable conceptual problems associated with the very idea of representation and argues that we need to shift from epistemological to ontological treatments of images. Michael Lynch reflects on the ways in which philosophical pictures hold us captive, in earlier times with respect to reference, and more recently with respect to information. Steve Woolgar looks back on various attempts to problematize and displace the notion of representation since the publication of the earlier volume. Lucy Suchman calls for a greater measure of reflexivity in our studies of representation, to understand what exclusions we generate through our own practices of articulating and bounding the phenomena we study. John Law asks us to attend to the “collateral realities” that are being “done” at the periphery of what representation in scientific practice is ostensibly about. Martin Kemp discusses how visual images and graphics are used to evoke “reality,” as though directly on the page or screen. Bruno Latour argues that the supposed “gap” between previously unknown realities and visual images is densely populated by “long cascades of successive traces.” These seven short pieces comment on the nature and prospects of studies of representation in general. In this vein, they reference the “big” themes of representation— for example, epistemology, ontology, visualization, and trust. The commentaries thus provide an interesting complement to the empirical case studies in the book. Whereas the latter deliver a crucial deflationary effect— “science” is brought down to earth, made commonplace and subject to epistemic leveling; the “elevator words” in philosophy of science are unloaded at the ground floor (Hacking 1999, 21ff)— these final commentaries remind us about the traps, troubles, and taken-for-granted assumptions that continue to characterize even the very best empirical studies of representational work. Reference Hacking, Ian. 1999. The Social Construction of What? Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Keywords:   Epistemology, Images, Ontology, Practice, Representation, Reflection, Scientific, Visual

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