Knorr Cetina, Karen. Epistemic Cultures; How the Sciences Make Knowledge. Cambridge, Massachusetts; Harvard UP, 1999.
This unusual work argues that the two epistemic cultures represented by microbiology and high energy physics (HEP) define problems and puzzles against very different backgrounds, construct different "logical" approaches to solve those problems and puzzles, and select and enforce the correct answers to those problems and puzzles with quite different strategies. Knorr Cetina defines epistemic cultures as "cultures that create and warrant knowledge" (Introduction). HEP experiments are done with a very few very large instruments. Because there is no body of comparative results, physicists use a liminal approach, arguing that they must constantly test, calibrate and question the kinds of results they are getting: this Knorr Cetina calls the "care of the self." Microbiologists, by contrast, have a multitude of little workshops and labs to turn to for results and comparisons; consequently they are far more focused on results than the instruments, and microbiologists feel more free to run "blind" variations within an experiment to see what the results will be. Microbiologists appear to aim at turning biological processes into industrial "output," while particle physicists seem rather less focused on results or products, and have created a kind of anthropomorphic language (or relationships with the machines) to describe the problems of background and specific detectors. Knorr Cetina argues that a communitarian process of "unfolding" characterizes HEP decisions. Microbiology decisions are more hierarchical, with lab leaders presiding over the barter of lab products and expertise. In the Socratic tenth chapter, Knorr Cetina has her reader ask: "Then culture is simply a particular take on an ensemble of practices and preferences, a take that brings out their characteristics in relation to other such ensembles?" (247) This definition is allowed to stand as a starting point, but Knorr Cetina adds that symbolic aspects of modes of life are also important, and necessary to understanding cultural choices about truth. Finally, she suggests that her results can be used as "templates against which to explore the distinctive features of other expert domains and as pointers to possible dimensions in other areas." (252)