Practice can eliminate the gap between inside and outside of science

There is a difficult problem in modern philosophy of science, that is, the confrontation or separation between “internal problems” and “external problems” (self and environment) about science.

Michel Callon is a contemporary French sociologist of scientific knowledge. He, together with Bruno Latour and John Law, proposed the Actor Network Theory.

The actor network theory proposed by Caron et al. Has brought an opportunity to solve this problem.

Actor network theory has built a bridge and promoted the internal and external communication of science. It is believed that the reason why science and technology has an internal is because there is also an external.

In such a simple point of view, there is a positive feedback loop, that is, as long as the science is stronger, the scientists will be farther outside the science.

Furthermore, if scientists are in the laboratory, under the effect of this positive feedback, they will not see interpersonal relationships, politics, law, morals, economics and culture, etc. At this time, science exists without society. of.

In fact, science cannot be isolated from society. It is precisely because there are leaders active outside of science that other scientists or collaborators can work with peace of mind inside.

If we antagonize the internal and external of science, we will not be able to achieve a complete scientific and technological exploration, nor will we be able to find a clear direction to follow at the crossroads of scientific activities.

When scientists seem to work in a completely independent manner, only with their colleagues who are dedicated to studying scientific issues, this shows that they are not completely independent, but are closely linked to the research interests of others.

If scientists want to be truly independent, they cannot obtain social resources to build a laboratory, nor can they recruit other colleagues to work together, or even obtain a means of earning a living.

It can be said that this double move is conducive to achieving a balance between the intensity of external interest in science and the intensity of internal work in science, and promotes the smooth development of scientific activities.

Actor network theory focuses on case studies and scientific practice. This method can better eliminate the gap between internal and external problems of science.

From the perspective of the actor network theory, human factors and non-human factors have the same important status. The distinction between nature and society is eliminated.

Social factors are no longer the causal shaping factors of the network, but the various networks and their past. The result of contradictory relations in the unknowable realm.

To illustrate the network of actors in science and technology, Caron studied a tram case. He studied French tram cases from the perspective of “actor networks” and analyzed the construction process of trams by revealing heterogeneous elements in scientific and technological activities.

In 1973, the French Electric Power Company (EDF) prepared to develop a new type of electric car, intending to stipulate the purely technical characteristics of the new type of car and limit the field of activity for this type of car operation.

EDF puts forward new requirements for manufacturers and defines the automobile production model of post-industrial society, which can replace the history of automobile society and technology in industrial society.

EDF strives to seek support from various government departments to help formulate laws and regulations that are conducive to tram development. It also allows municipalities interested in trams to provide relevant funding. It also recommends that bus companies establish cooperation with research centers and scientists.

From the perspective of non-human factors, EDF’s tram plan includes batteries, fuel cells, electrodes, electronic catalysts, and electrolytes. These have the same status as human factors (consumers, government departments, scientists, etc.).

The tram R & D project developed smoothly in the first few years, and the new tram still existed in 1973, but it was disintegrated in 1976 due to the challenge of Renault Motors, which became France’s largest auto manufacturer.

The work of EDF at that time was to construct the “actor network”. The new tram as a technical object exists in the actor network constructed by EDF, and its manufacture is also the construction of this particular actor network.

The concept of “actor networks” proposed by Caron allows us to better understand how society and technology are generated simultaneously. In this actor network, the constituent elements are heterogeneous, including both human and non-human elements, which together construct a new type of tram and shape its technical content.

The theory of actor networks is also called sociology of translation, which means conversion, emphasizing the conversion of interests. In this process, the actor network is constructed.

The formation of this network is inseparable from the redefinition of the interests, roles, positions and roles of the various actors.

Both human and non-human factors will change during the translation process, and the key to judging the success of the translation is the ability of the translator and the resistance of the translator.

The ruggedness of the technical object depends on the ruggedness of the actor network. The construction of the actor network shows the various powers of science and technology, and also reflects the construction process of science and technology is the process of generating nature and society simultaneously.

The successful construction of science and technology is the successful construction of nature and society.

Furthermore, scientific and technological activities can form a seamless network between nature and society. Nature and society are constructed together in this seamless network.

Caron’s practical research on the French tram case through the “Actor Network” emphasizes the following of technology construction activities, highlighting the important theoretical significance. There are three specific points.


First, it advocates human elements and non-human elements to participate in the construction and follow the actors themselves.

This study attempts to grasp the usual arbitrary forms of innovation, feel the existence of collectiveness, explore the theory of how to achieve the harmonious coexistence of groups, and study the specific path therein.

Here, we need to explain how they establish contact, and this is inseparable from following the actors, and constantly exploring on the way forward.

Second, it emphasizes the construction of networks by actors, and advocates the construction of verbs (worknet) rather than the network of nouns (network).

The biggest difference between the actor network theory and previous theories is the emphasis on such work activities or flows and changes. It can be said that the actor network theory is more a method than a theory.

Third, emphasize the “conversion” of research perspectives. The actor network theory advocates a methodology that continuously transforms between multiple theoretical horizons.

If a theoretical worker wants to realize the objectivity of exploring science, he must understand the transformation of the research framework and research horizon, that is, jump from one to the other.

Otherwise, they will be limited to a narrow perspective.

(This article is a funded project of the Central University ’s Fundamental Scientific Research Business Expenses and the Project of Growth Project of Young Scholars in Philosophy and Social Sciences of Huaqiao University, “Study of Social Construction of Modern Science and Technology Innovation” (20SKGC-QT03)

(Author: School of Philosophy and Social Development, Huaqiao University)

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