Making Measuring Bodies

A. Harris*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Medicine is often criticized in science and technology studies (STS) for its dominating measuring practices. To date, the focus has been on two areas of "metric work": health-care workers and metric infrastructures. In this article, I step back into the training of clinicians, which is important for understanding more about how practices of measurement are developed. I draw on ethnographic fieldwork in a Dutch medical school to look at how a ubiquitous and mundane tool--measuring tapes--is embodied by medical students as they learn to coordinate their sensory knowledge. In doing so, they create their own bodies as the standard or measure of things. Unpacking educational practices concerning this object, I suggest that tracing the making of measuring bodies offers new insights into medical metric work. This also speaks to the growing interest in STS in sensory science, where the body is fashioned as a measuring instrument. Specifically, two interrelated contributions build on and deepen STS scholarship: first, the article shows that learning is an embodied process of inner-scaffold making; second, it suggests that the numerical objectification of sensory knowing is not a calibration to "objectivity machines" but rather to oscillations between bodies and objects that involve sensory-numerical work.

Original languageEnglish
Article number01622439211041159
Pages (from-to)115-138
Number of pages24
JournalScience Technology & Human Values
Issue number1
Early online date3 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023


  • sensing
  • measuring
  • embodiment
  • education
  • medicine


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