…great book by Michel Callon and his colleagues.
Old (to me old is 1970s, but to most people 2001 is old!) and deep.
It’s subtitle is « An essay on Technical Democracy ».
Why am I bothering people with this?
Well, before I explain, let me say that (to me) Callon is the John Lennon of Actor Network Theory. Latour (he’d be the McCartney) is in the limelight; Callon is backstage. But he thinks really deeply and writes in an illuminating way.
So, you can read this piece about the Argentinian villagers who fear the pesticides they think are creating serious health problems, as another hors d’oeuvre on the controversy menu. But if you read it in the light of Callon’s book, then you realise how much collective effort, organisation, persistance, acquisition of competences it would take these villagers to amass the evidence to actually prove it. You realise
- what a huge step it is to go from hearsay (which now that I come to think of it I have heard over the last 30 years in the rural area where I spend my summers when local residents associate radon and cancer every time someone local dies of « C ») to argument, and
- that over the past 250 years science has delegitimised amateurs (as opposed to experts) and the complex apparatus of modern democracy has turned us into political couch potatoes, who leave all the messy and tedious decision making processes to the elected.
Callon and his colleagues provide examples of cases in which amateurs (a) learned how to prove the connection between, say a high incidence of leukaemia and some local industrial plant and (b) were able to change the course of things.
Maybe some clever PhD student at the Ecole des Mines Centre for the Sociology of Innovation, which Callon and Latour founded, is looking at whether social media are empowering the « ignorant » and « weak » to somehow reverse the trend.