Monday, May 31, 2010

Thinking about After Method: Part 2

John Law's 2004 book "After Method" discusses how methodologies or practices, can effect and even determine, how we conceive phenomenon. Borrowing heavily from other STS theorists such as Latour and Mol, he argues that attempts to find a single "best" methodology for knowing is impossible and instead advocates utilizing a wide range of metholodogies each of which comes with what he calls its own "hinterland" or unique ontological history. Law casts doubt on the conviction that any thing has a single identity that can be discovered given a proper methodology by appealing to several "thick" ethnographies of various concepts, for which STS is famous for.

At first this seems like a pretty strong version of your garden variety relativism.

However Law emphasizes throughout the book how difficult in practice it is to establish convincing and sustainable methodologies. Reality may be created through practices but, Law insists, that doesn't mean that anything goes.

I'm not sure I buy it.

But on a pragmatic level, because the world, academia included, is so full of people who think their way is the only, or at least the best, way, Law's call for methodological diversity is a welcome one.