Masons, Tricksters and Cartographers: Comparative Studies in the Sociology of Scientific and Indigenous Knowledge

By David Turnbull | Go to book overview

6

MESSINESS AND ORDER IN TURBULENCE RESEARCH

Disorder, Order, Collective Work and Assemblages

This chapter, like the previous one, is focused on contemporary Western technoscientists in action. In this case it is based on an extended visit I made to a group of turbulence researchers at The Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Princeton University in 1989, and subsequent visits in 1990 and 1994.

In the malaria example I was concerned with ways in which attempts to extend a knowledge space often serve to eliminate local complexities. In this case I am concerned with the ways in which the actors deal with the situation through the imposition of order. Scientists obviously impose order on nature, but they do so in part by the imposition of order on the disciplinary field. 1 This second-level social ordering is often made manifest only as a consequence of a third-level ordering, that of the social analyst. Sociologists of scientific knowledge attempt to gain analytic leverage and rhetorical authority by revealing the ways in which scientists ‘naturalise the arbitrary’. 2 Sociologists themselves naturalise the arbitrary when they claim to reveal what scientists are ‘really’ doing. There is, however, an extra twist to all this. Just as sociologists of science have opened up new areas of exploration through the opportunities offered by ‘interpretive flexibility’, and just as the ‘deconstructive turn’ has transformed much of social and cultural inquiry, so too have the natural sciences themselves been transformed by their own recognition of the consequences of non-linear complexity and Gödel’s theorem. Nature can no longer be conceived as having one true order. Instead all is chaos; order and disorder go hand in hand; the future is unpredictable even though chaos itself has a kind of order as a consequence of our modes of interpretation. 3 Hence the analysts’ categories and the actors’ categories are not truly independent, rather their notions of order are at least indirectly related.

One way of escaping the seeming contradictions generated by our past bondage to mimetic representation lies in accepting that neither

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Masons, Tricksters and Cartographers: Comparative Studies in the Sociology of Scientific and Indigenous Knowledge
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Figures vii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • 1 - On with the Motley 19
  • 2 - Talk, Templates and Tradition 53
  • 3 - Tricksters and Cartographers 89
  • 4 - Pacific Navigation 131
  • 5 - Making Malaria Curable 161
  • 6 - Messiness and Order in Turbulence Research 183
  • Bibliography 233
  • Index 259
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