Monday, January 26, 2009

Blogging for Bugs

--from "A Plea for Earthly Sciences" by Bruno Latour

While thirty years ago, it took sociologists and historians of science and technology enormous efforts to associate a given matter of fact to the human groups responsible for its coming into existence, it seems nowadays that there is hardly a matter of fact left without its associated constituency. Have you noticed it? every disease now has its patient organization, every river its advocacy group, every Swiss glacier, it seems, its protective cover, every bird, every tree, its own group of volunteers and militants —it is as if every bug had its blog! When last year astronomers turned lexicographers modified the list of planets in good standing, that too made the headlines—and some planetoids had their vociferous defenders! I have learned recently that even nettle, this real nuisance of my garden, benefits from a group caring for it and trying to redress what they see as sheer plant discrimination! Nettle?!

To qualify such a sea change, this fast disappearance of “nature” & “society,” I have proposed to say that all matters of fact have become matters of concern —or, more philosophically, that objects have become things that is, issues, gatherings, assemblies of some sort. Whatever the name, one consequence is sure: this is the new turf of the newly redefined social sciences. The ecological crisis has forced us to abandon the nature and society collectors, reinforcing to a degree none of us thought imaginable, I swear, the feeble insights of early science studies.

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