Ontology in Science and Technology Studies: Other Entries

Sally Wyatt, Loet Leydesdorff

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademic


Science and technology studies (STS) analyses ontologies definitions of reality) as empirical phenomena, whereas in philosophy, ontology is concerned with what there is in the world. STS focuses on how new theoretical insights and novel instruments create or construct new objects or make visible entities that may have been around for a while. STS draws attention to the coproduction of “nature” and “society” in scientific
practices. For example, only after the development of microscopes could scientists make claims about the nature and existence of bacteria, not previously visible to the human eye. In the 19th century, Louis Pasteur’s laboratory changed the world by adding microbes to it (Latour, 1988). The microbes were written into nature and society as epistemic objects, in effect expanding what can be observed and studied by biologists. Another example is the ways in which fertility treatments challenge notions of what counts as motherhood: Egg donation, gestation, and raising a child can now be separated in ways that were impossible 100 years ago. The possibility to shift perspectives has implications for the ontological status of things. Instead of a single category of “mother,” there are multiple categories and roles including egg donors, surrogates, and carers. This entry explores the “turn to ontology” in STS, discussing its background and development, as well as implications for reflexivity in knowledge production and research methods.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSAGE Research Methods Foundations
EditorsPaul Atkinson, Sara Delamont, Alexandru Cernat, Joseph W. Sakshaug, Richard A. Williams
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherSAGE Publications Ltd
Number of pages5
ISBN (Electronic)9781526421036
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Publication series

SeriesPhilosophical Principles

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