Reference : The Condition of Felicity of a Blind Instrument
Scientific congresses and symposiums : Unpublished conference
Social & behavioral sciences, psychology : Sociology & social sciences
The Condition of Felicity of a Blind Instrument
[fr] Les conditions de félicités d'un instrument aveugle
Melard, François[Université de Liège - ULg > Département des sciences et gestion de l'environnement > Département des sciences et gestion de l'environnement >]
Annual Meeting of the Society of the Social Studies of Science
1-4 novembre 2001
[en] Polarimetry ; Controversy ; Instruments ; History of Science
[en] This paper deals with an historical and ethnographic case : the operation of field laboratories in the sugar industry and their use of an instrument to measure a vegetable - the sugar beet. An optical instrument – the polariscope - gives voice to sugar beets in order to settle agreements on the vegetable's industrial definition and financial value. The polariscope gained its strange authority through a historical and technical capacity for mediation : a mediation between sugar beet growers and sugar manufacturers (and their social interests), but especially a mediation between these social actors and the vegetable itself.
I focus on the idea that, in fact, this instrument is “blind” and describe the sociological “exchanges of properties” that take place between human and non-human actors in an industrial, public, and low-tech setting. My study shows that this is a challenging and alternative way - far from scientific laboratories - by which knowledge and coordination are produced.