Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Phd's: an act of faith or congealed labor

'think of technology as congealed labor' so says Latour (1994) On technical mediation - Philosophy, sociology, geneology. Common knowledge, 3(2), 29-65.

I am thinking how naive I ever was to think I might study change and understand how change occurs. My insight now is that I/we can only ever have limited knowledge.
What I might know is only what i can congeal at that moment. What at a particular time is held together. In looking I observe more, I broaden a picture, but there's always more, the traces are never fully made. And I suspect some of the traces I make might be seen by others as distractions or only loosely connected. The researcher is always situated. What brings me to this?
The path of being a Phd student is anything but straight. The iterative processes have me doubting my purpose and any end product. I sense that I might lose myself in navel gazing but for a willingness to consider a Phd as an act of faith made real; A pragmatic piece of work thats done when its done.

"I rely on many delegated actions that themselves make me do things on behalf of
others who are no longer here and that I have not elected and the course of whose
existence I cannot even retrace."
Latour (1994)
Taking this further; when i think i am acting, more than just me is acting, I am a product too of past and current actors, as are others involved, both human and otherwise. I might be able to say of the actors I identify, that they had such and such an influence, but even in this my sight will be limited to what I am able to perceive and uncover.
To use another of Latours analogies; at any time, some parts of the cloth will be more, and less, uncovered.


  1. Anonymous7:50 AM

    I am beginning to relate to your thinking and musing on this, as I am beginning one. Nice to know somebody is writing about their experiences, as I have been too overwhelmed with work to blog about my new program . . .

    That makes for a nice proximate goal, huh?

  2. Hi Jeffrey, feel free to drop by any time, if you establish a blog, let me know. The methodology i follow encourages a reflective stance on process as well as product (Latour in 'reassembling the social' suggests a 4 notebook approach, in my case i'm using a blog to replace one of the notebooks)

  3. Anonymous7:17 PM

    Alisa, I have a blog and have been using it for a number of purposes over the last few years -

    Can you speak more about Latour's work, and what about it influences your thinking and approach? I am unfamiliar . . .