Memory Practices in the Sciencesby Geoffrey C. Bowker
Pub. Date: 04/30/2008
Publisher: MIT Press
The way we record knowledge, and the web of technical, formal, and social practices that surrounds it, inevitably affects the knowledge that we record. The ways we hold knowledge about the past in handwritten manuscripts, in printed books, in file folders, in databases shape the kind of stories we tell about that past. In this lively and erudite look
The way we record knowledge, and the web of technical, formal, and social practices that surrounds it, inevitably affects the knowledge that we record. The ways we hold knowledge about the past in handwritten manuscripts, in printed books, in file folders, in databases shape the kind of stories we tell about that past. In this lively and erudite look at the relation of our information infrastructures to our information, Geoffrey Bowker examines how, over the past two hundred years, information technology has converged with the nature and production of scientific knowledge. His story weaves a path between the social and political work of creating an explicit, indexical memory for science the making of infrastructures and the variety of ways we continually reconfigure, lose, and regain the past.
At a time when memory is so cheap and its recording is so protean, Bowker reminds us of the centrality of what and how we choose to forget. In Memory Practices in the Sciences he looks at three "memory epochs" of the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries and their particular reconstructions and reconfigurations of scientific knowledge. The nineteenth century's central science, geology, mapped both the social and the natural world into a single time package (despite apparent discontinuities), as, in a different way, did mid-twentieth-century cybernetics. Both, Bowker argues,packaged time in ways indexed by their information technologies to permit traffic between the social and natural worlds. Today's sciences of biodiversity, meanwhile,"database the world" in a way that excludes certain spaces, entities, and times. We use the tools of the present to look at the past, says Bowker; we project onto nature our modes of organizing our own affairs.
Table of ContentsAcknowledgments ix
Synchronization and Synchrony in the Archive: Geology and the 1830s 35
The Empty Archive: Cybernetics and the 1960s 75
Databasing the World: Biodiversity and the 2000s 107
The Mnemonic Deep: The Importance of an Unruly Past 137
The Local Knowledge of a Globalizing Ethnos 201
Inside Technology 255
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