Nanotechnology and the Modern University

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The novelty of nanotechnology presents social scientists with an interesting dilemma. On the one hand, the scientists and engineers doing nano research have been at it for such a brief time, and are performing such a diffuse array of activities, that it is very difficult to see what social scientists should be studying, much less how they should go about it. On the other hand, social scientists who study science and engineering have (at least over the past decade) focused largely on disciplines that are relatively marginal to nano—computing-information technology, genomics-biotech, psychology-cognitive science, economics, and medicine (this gross generalization is based on looking through the program of the annual Society for Social Studies of Science meeting for the past few years). There is very little sociology or anthropology of the core fields of nano (materials science, chemistry, applied and/or condensed matter physics, electrical and mechanical engineering)—though the exceptions are some of the best representatives of social studies of science (e.g. Hugh Gusterson, Laura McNamara, Bart Simon, Harry Collins). Obviously, some lessons from ethnographies or recent histories of biotech, economics, etc. will translate well to the study of nanotechnology; but we should also accept that it will probably take as long for social scientists to develop a methodology for nanotechnology as it will take scientists and engineers to develop a practice of nanotechnology.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-27
JournalPracticing Anthropology
Publication statusPublished - 2006
Externally publishedYes

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