The Wrong Bin Bag: A Turn to Ontology in Science and Technology Studies?

Woolgar, Steve and Lezaun, Javier (2013) The Wrong Bin Bag: A Turn to Ontology in Science and Technology Studies? Social Studies of Science, 43 (3). pp. 321-340.


There is in science and technology studies a perceptible new interest in matters of ‘ontology’. Until recently, the term ‘ontology’ had been sparingly used in the field. Now it appears to have acquired a new theoretical significance and lies at the centre of many programmes of empirical investigation. The special issue to which this essay is a contribution gathers a series of enquiries into the ontological and reflects, collectively, on the value of the analytical and methodological sensibilities that underpin this new approach to the make-up of the world. To what extent and in what sense can we speak of a ‘turn to ontology’ in science and technology studies? What should we make of, and with, this renewed interest in matters of ontology? This essay offers some preliminary responses to these questions. First, we examine claims of a shift from epistemology to ontology and explore in particular the implications of the notion of ‘enactment’. This leads to a consideration of the normative implications of approaches that bring ‘ontological politics’ to centre stage. We then illustrate and pursue these questions by using an example – the case of the ‘wrong bin bag’. We conclude with a tentative assessment of the prospects for ontologically sensitive science and technology studies.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: enactment; epistemology; materiality; ontology; normativity
Subject(s): Science & technology management
Date Deposited: 19 Jun 2012 14:44
Last Modified: 14 Jul 2017 11:08
Funders: Not applicable

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