The Handbook of Science and Technology offers a useful and balanced approach to recent works in STS. Its editors say that they were overwhelmed with possible chapters and had to weed and cull vigorously, and indeed its internal sections -- Theory and Models; Scientific and Technical Cultures; Constructing Technology; Communicating Science and Technology; Science Technology and Controversy; and Science, Technology and the State -- seem like pleasantly ad hoc categories; however, the result of the groupings is a good look at what is being produced without an overtly cumbersome or distracting framework. (N.B. Three of four reviewers in the Lehigh STS newsletter remark irritably and negatively about the balance and usefulness of the Handbook. )
And frameworks are the focus of (many of ) the articles themselves: how does technology arise from society, and how does technology create the society it arises from? In a sense, all though not all writers touch on this question directly, the orientation that each has to the process by which technology arises governs the methods by which they believe technology ought to be questioned, bounded, constructed and explained. In "Reinventing the Wheel," David Edge argues that a dialog between the various approaches to STS ought to be ongoing and that boundaries of the field need to be expanded to accommodate the "weight" of new inquiry; in a similar fashion Sal Restivo's "Theory of Landscape in Science Studies," argues that earlier thinkers in the field (Merton, Kuhn) must continue to inform present work, and that whether "conflict," interest," or "social construction,” is seen as the organizing force for scientific theory, the constructivist view is, or ought to be, the heart of STS practice and theory. Bowden's "Coming of Age in STS” summary offers his colleagues a recognizable metaphor for the development of the field, but that metaphor has at its heart a biological teleology that may not be entirely suited for his subject: in the ordinary mind adolescence leads to dull stability followed by senility and death.
Also struggling beyond the bounds of biology is Keller's "Origin, History, and Politics of the Subject Called 'Gender and Science,'" which takes what was once a marginalized subject, feminist-informed gender studies, and traces the effect and importance it has assumed as a way to question "invisible" narratives that inhere in "neutral" explanations of, for instance, genetic processes. In their "Science and Other Indigenous Knowledge Systems" Watson-Verran and Turnbull likewise upend the monolith "Western science" by describing local systems of knowing and organizing knowledge --among them Inca quipu-based maps, Polynesian navigation systems and medieval cathedral templates-- that lack certain bedrock features of modern Western science; standard measuring systems, or writing, for instance, but are nevertheless transportable, transferable systems Watson-Verran's point is that "universal" systems are, in fact, local, and rooted in local practice. Ancarani's "Globalizing the World" is, in yet another way, concerned with the ending of hegemony, from the pressure an inevitably "globalized" science and technology bring to the writing of national policy, to the destabilizing disposition of power and resources among non-governmental organization and multinational corporations, to a deeply felt problem by the newly developing countries: the apparent (but deceptive) creation of generic goods from S & T advances.
In beginning to understand the range of problems STS covers, and the range of approaches possible, very useful to a new student like myself was "Four Models for the Dynamics of Science" by Michel Callon, covering the various ways -- from positivist to networked -- that STS thinkers could or might marshal their explanations of "how science is done." Two other studies representative of the challenging work being done areas of deep social interest were "Sociohistorical Technology Studies," Bijker's analysis of the social and technological intertwining of the Oosterschelde enclosure project, and "Social Studies and Machine Intelligence, " Harry Collins's argument that the problems in machine studies are representative of key problems in the sociology of scientific knowledge -- what does, and does not represent "independent" uncontextualized thinking.
As a final step in reviewing an anthology, one asks, what about the way that these articles will "read" twenty years from now? Some few are timeless, (Callon's work and possibly Watson-Verran's) and others are rooted in the problems of the here-and-now (Bowden, Ancarani, Keller), but none that I read seemed especially clotted by jargon or too much fractured by field infighting. The editors of The Handbook have done a good job, it seems to me, in choosing articles that will weather well.
"Reinventing the Wheel," David Edge. "Four Models for the Dynamics
of Science," Michel Callon. "Coming of Age in STS: Some Methodological
Musings," Gary Bowden. "The Origin, History and Politics of a Subject
Called 'Gender and Science:' A First Person Account," Evelyn
Fox Keller. "The Theory Landscape in Science Studies: Sociological
Traditions," Sal Restivo. "Science and Other Indigenous Knowledge
Systems," Helen Watson-Verran and David Turnbull. "Sociohistorical
Technology Studies," Weibe E. Bijker. "Globalizing the World:
Science and Technology in International Relations," Vittorio Ancarani.