Science, technology & society: all publications

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KONOPÁSEK, Z. / PALEčEK, J. (2006): V moci ďábla: Exorcismus věřícnýma očima [Exorcism of Emily Rose: The reality of possession as a subject for social sciences]. Biograf (40-41): 138-171

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 A critical analysis of the film Exorcism of Emily Rose (Scott Derrickson 2005). We emphasize ambivalent medical/religious interpretations, presented in the moview, of a tragic case of exorcism of a young girl by her priest. Such a focus allows us to explain some important aspects of our own research approach applied to a study of spiritual and religious experiences in psychiatry.

PREDA, A. (2004): Finanční vědění, dokumenty a struktury finančních činností [Financial knowledge, documents, and the structures of financial activities]. Biograf, (33): 3-29 - translated by Zdeněk Konopásek and Jiřina Zachová

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Starting from participant observation and interviews conducted in several European banks, the article examines how financial knowledge is constituted in the process of producing documents like research reports, analyses, and newsletters. The core argument is that documents act as organizational devices, with the help of which relationships are created, maintained, and managed across various contexts. In this perspective, the production of financial reports, analyses, and newsletters creates (1) knowledge-based networks of social relationships in which financial action is embedded and (2) stable temporal structures, thus ensuring the continuity of financial activities. On these grounds, the author argues here that knowledge-generating processes should be taken into account as an essential dimension of the structural embeddedness of financial action. 

Translated from PREDA, A. (2002): Financial knowledge, documents, and the structures of financial activities. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 31 (4): 207-239

BERG, M. / BOWKER, G.C. (2004): Rozmanitá těla zdravotní dokumentace: K sociologii jednoho nástroje [The multiple bodies of the medical record: Toward a sociology of an artifact]. Biograf, (34): 3-34 - translated by Zdeněk Konopásek

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This article argues that the medical record is an important focus for sociological research. In medical work, the modern patient´s body that Foucault has so aptly described is produced through embodied, materially heterogeneous work, and the medical record plays a crucial role in this production. It does not simply represent this body´s history and geography; it is a central element in the material rewriting of these. Simultaneously, the record fulfills a core role in the production of a body politic. As the record is involved in the performance of the patient´s body, it is also involved in the performance of the clinic in which that body comes to life. Finally, we argue that different records and different practices of reading and writing are intertwined with the production of different patient´s bodies, bodies politic, and bodies of knowledge. As organizational infrastructure, the medical record affords the interplay and coordination of divergent worlds. Seen as a site where multiple stories about patients and organizations are at stake, including the interoperability between these stories, the medical record becomes highly relevant both analytically and politically. 

Translated from BERG, Marc / BOWKER, Geoffrey C. (1997): The multiple bodies of the medical record: Toward a sociology of an artifact. Sociological Quarterly, 38 (3): 513-537

KONOPÁSEK, Z. / STÖCKELOVÁ, T. / ZAMYKALOVÁ, L. (2004): Making pure science / pure politics in the public controversy over the highway bypass of Plzeň CTS. Research Reports, CTS-04-12. Praha: CTS. Available at http://www.cts.cuni.cz/

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Paper prepared for the Joint 4S & EASST Conference 2004 Public proofs – science, technology and democracy, Paris, Ecole des Mines, August 25-28 2004

This paper is based on a detailed empirical case study of a long-term public controversy over the construction of a highway bypass around the city of Plzen (in South-Western Bohemia, Czech Republic). The controversy involved a wide range of actors: local activists, an environmentalist NGO, politicians of all levels, experts, developers, state and regional administration, and media people. Two variants of the bypass were at stake: one of them gradually appearing better and better, attractive for experts, but existing as if only on paper, while the other was becoming more and more real, pushed through mainly by local politicians, and actually constructed. Although the story could be narrated in terms of an unequal struggle between environmentalists and small villages on one side and politicians, economic lobbies and municipality of a big city on the other, we will try to follow a more subtle and complex story-line, which focuses upon different strategic usages of science and politics. Besides explaining how it happened that one of the variants “attracted” the winning properties (and “won”), we will also describe a “vicious” circle of a double purification of science and politics and show how it contributes to the fragility of both democracy and expertise.

KONOPÁSEK, Z. / STÖCKELOVÁ, T. / VAJDOVÁ, T. / ZAMYKALOVÁ, L. (2004): Environmental controversies in technical democracy: Three case studies. CTS Research Reports, CTS-04-04. Praha: CTS. Available at http://www.cts.cuni.cz/

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In this research report we present a collection of three case studies that have been undertaken within our work on the research project "Analysing public accountability procedures in contemporary European contexts". The overall aim of the project was to study opportunities and limits of democracy in societies in which expert knowledge becomes crucial for almost any decision-making and socio-technical networks that shape our daily lives are being openly and widely contested in the public arena. Especially in cases where science and technology are involved and where technicalities of different sorts and specialised knowledge penetrate political agenda, i.e., on the borderline of science and politics, the principles of open, friendly, inclusive and transparent politics (as well as the classical principles of disinterested and independent expertise) get into troubles. That is why we decided, in our research, to confront the principle of public accountability with the flesh-and-blood reality of the following socio-technical controversies, elaborated as in-depth case studies: (1) The controversy over the building and operation of the household waste incinerator in Praha-Malesice; (2) The public conflicts concerning the highway by-pass around the city of Plzeň; (3) Current policies and controversies related to the introduction of GMO into the Czech legal, social, economic and political environment.

MOL, A. / LAW, J. (2003): Vtělené jednání, zjednávaná těla: příklad hypoglykémie [Embodied action, enacted bodies: The example of hypoglycaemia]. Biograf, (31): 5-25

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We all know that we have and are our bodies. But might it be possible to leave this common place? In the present article we try to do this by attending to the way we do our bodies. The site where we look for such action is that of handling the hypoglycaemias that sometimes happen to people with diabetes. In this site it appears that the body, active in measuring, feeling and countering hypoglycaemias is not a bounded whole: its boundaries leak. Bits and pieces of the outside get incorporated within the active body; while the centre of some bodily activities is beyond the skin. The body thus enacted is not self-evidently coherent either. There are tensions between the body's organs; between the control under which we put our bodies and the erratic character of their behaviour; and between the various needs and desires single bodies somehow try to combine. Thus to say that a body is a whole, or so we conclude, skips over a lot of work. One does not hang together as a matter of course: keeping oneself together is something the embodied person needs to do. The person who fails to do so dies.

MOL, A. / LAW, J. (2004): Embodied action, enacted bodies: The example of hypoglycaemia. Body & Society, 10 (2-3): 43-62

LATOUR, B. (2002): Když věci vracejí úder: Co mohou sociálním vědám přinést "vědní studia" [When things strike back: A possible contribution of "science studies" to the social sciences]. Biograf, (29): 3-20 - translated by Zdeněk Konopásek

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The contribution of the field of science and technology studies (STS) to mainstream sociology has so far been slim because of a misunderstanding about what it means to provide a social explanation of a piece of science or of an artefact. The type of explanation possible for religion, art or popular culture no longer works in the case of hard science or technology. This does not mean, it is argued, that science and technology escapes sociological explanation, but that a deep redescription of what is a social explanation is in order. Once this misunderstanding has been clarified, it becomes interesting to measure up the challenge raised by STS to the usual epistemologies social sciences believed necessary for their undertakings. The social sciences imitate the natural sciences in a way that render them unable to profit from the type of objectivity found in the natural sciences. It is argued that by following the STS lead, social sciences may start to imitate the natural sciences in a very different fashion. Once the meanings of "social" and of "science" are reconfigured, the definition of what a "social science" is and what it can do in the political arena is considered. Again it is not by imitating the philosophers of science's ideas of what is a natural science that sociology can be made politically relevant.

LATOUR, B. (2000): When things strike back: A possible contribution of "science studies" to the social sciences. The British Journal of Sociology, 51 (1): 107-123

LATOUR, B. (2001): Nepřehlédněme žížalu Pontoscoles corethrurus [Let’s us not overlook the earthworm Pontoscolex corethrurus]. Vesmír, 80 (7): 383-85 - translated by Zdeněk Konopásek and David Storch

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Translation of: LATOUR, B. (undated): Let’s us not overlook the earthworm Pontoscolex corethrurus. Manuscript, available at http://bruno.latour.fr

KONOPÁSEK, Z. (2001): O politice nepolitičnosti (ve stopách Bruno Latoura) [On the politics of non-politics - A Bruno Latour's view]. Vesmír, 80 (7): 386-389

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KONOPÁSEK, Z. (2000): When science and the state are less powerful than one might expect. Imprints, 4 (3): 260-269

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Review of: SCOTT, J. C. (1998): Seeing like a state: How certain schemes to improve the human condition have failed. New Haven & London: Yale University Press

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