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Theory Space

I like what Emanuel Dermanrecently wrote about theory:
Theories deal with the world on its own terms, absolutely. Models are metaphors, relative descriptions of the object of their attention that compare it to something similar already better understood via theories. Models are reductions in dimensionality that always simplify and sweep dirt under the rug. Theories tell you what something is. Models tell you merely what something is partially like.

This is, of course, a physical scientist writing and, at least with contemporary Western science, there is a firm view of how the world is. In the social sciences there is a good deal more ambivalence and certainty, at least in some quarters. The ideas I have been interested for some time now had their origins in the Studies of Science & Technology (SST). In this respect, I like what Jan Nespor (1994, p.2) citingBruno Latourwrites about theory:
Theory does not subsume or explain 'empirical' work, it's simply a way of moving it, or as Latour (1988) suggests, of connecting different networks of knowledge-work:
Theories are never found alone, just as in open country there are no clover leaf intersections without freeways to connect and redirect... When a series of locations has been mastered and joined together in a network, it is possible to move from one place to another without noticing the work that links them together. One location seems 'potentially' to contain all the others. I am happy to call the jargon used to get by inside these networks 'theory', as long as it is understood that this is like the signposts and labels that we use to find our way back... What we call 'theory' is no more and no less real than a subway map in the subway (pp. 178, 220).

The idea space/sensibility that has most influenced my thinking is that associated with the now broad collection of folk and projects that fall under the labelactor-network theory. I have some rough notes and scribbles on aPrezi. If you'd like to scribble in/on it, let me know. I must confess to being drawn to Latour's work which is not only a lot of fun but also wonderfully irreverent. His commentary (Latour, 2005) on the sociology of the social (i.e. most of social theory that education folk hold dear) is simply wonderful.

But I also draw on ideas, models and musings from many other folk, as I am slowly mapping in the Other Lab.

Latour, Bruno. 1988. The Pasteurization of France. Cambridge, Ma.: Harvard University Press
Latour, Bruno. 2005. Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Nespor, Jan. 1994. Knowledge in Motion. Space, Time and Curriculum in Undergraduate Physics and Management, Knowledge, Identity and School Life Series. London: The Falmer Press.
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