Monday, April 26, 2010

Infinite regression; its turtles all the way down

I'm feeling a little lacking in science today having presented a very descriptive account of an actor network as my PhD study in a work based seminar today. Nonetheless as Latour has it: If those textual accounts in notebooks don't look scientific enough, then what heavier equipment would do? They are all the science needed for grasping a recalcitrant object through some artificial device of representation.

"What is so wrong with mere descriptions? A good text is never an unmediated portrait of what it describes-nor for that matter is a portrait....
No scholar should find humiliating the task of sticking to description. This is on the contrary, the highest and rarest achievement." (p. 136)

I had found myself wanting to provide explanations for text message counselling being a preferred practice. Explanations that the audience might credit as having depth and meaning; fiscal forces from economics, ego protection from psychology, even a little bit of conspiracy theory in why I dont have an answer to questions asked twice...
Some nice grounding then from Czarniawska(2003). She calls it plainly, "behind the fiction there is always another fiction, it's turtles all the way down".
Representation is always representation.
And some Latour realism; "Much like safe sex, sticking to description protects against the transmission of explanations."

The lurch in my research question, from a process one (what is happening here) to an evaluative one (is the change good) suggests the work net has enrolled me in stabilizing the change i have been observing...or that i have enrolled the infinite regression. And I really do not know which is true...and it may not matter.

Some more Latour to make my day feel better: A good text should trigger in a reader (or audience) this reaction" 'Please more details, I want more details.' God is in the details, and so is everything else- including the devil."
Today felt like this, questions a plenty, and answers that expanded rather than collapsed down. And knowledge too that it might always be otherwise.

And a snippet from Gell-Mann (discoverer of the Quark, a subatomic particle);
Chapter one draws me in:
I have never really seen a jaguar in the wild...
For most of my career as a theoretical physicist, my research has dealt with elementary particles, the basic building blocks of all matter in the universe. Unlike the experimental particle physicist, I dont have to stay close to a giant order to conduct my most all I require is a pencil, some paper, a wastepaper basket. Often even those are not essential. Give me a good nights sleep, freedom from distractions, and time unburdened by worries and obligations, and I can work. Whether I'm standing in the shower, hovering between wakefulness and sleep on a late night flight, or walking on a wilderness trail, my work can accompany me wherever i go.

Czarniawska, B. (2003). Management she wrote: organization studies and detective stories. In S. Linstead (Ed.), Text/work: Representing organization and organizing representation (pp. 15-40). London: Routledge.
Gell-Man, M. (1994). The quark and the jaguar. Adventures in the simple and the complex. New York; Henry Holt and Company.
Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the social. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (p135)

1 comment:

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