The Mangle of Practice: Time, Agency, and Science

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University of Chicago Press, Aug 15, 1995 - Science - 281 pages
2 Reviews
This ambitious book by one of the most original and provocative thinkers in science studies offers a sophisticated new understanding of the nature of scientific, mathematical, and engineering practice and the production of scientific knowledge.

Andrew Pickering offers a new approach to the unpredictable nature of change in science, taking into account the extraordinary number of factors—social, technological, conceptual, and natural—that interact to affect the creation of scientific knowledge. In his view, machines, instruments, facts, theories, conceptual and mathematical structures, disciplined practices, and human beings are in constantly shifting relationships with one another—"mangled" together in unforeseeable ways that are shaped by the contingencies of culture, time, and place.

Situating material as well as human agency in their larger cultural context, Pickering uses case studies to show how this picture of the open, changeable nature of science advances a richer understanding of scientific work both past and present. Pickering examines in detail the building of the bubble chamber in particle physics, the search for the quark, the construction of the quarternion system in mathematics, and the introduction of computer-controlled machine tools in industry. He uses these examples to address the most basic elements of scientific practice—the development of experimental apparatus, the production of facts, the development of theory, and the interrelation of machines and social organization.

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Review: The Mangle of Practice: Time, Agency, and Science

User Review  - Pamela - Goodreads

Provides an interesting theoretical bridge between physics and social science. Read full review

Review: The Mangle of Practice: Time, Agency, and Science

User Review  - D - Goodreads

The Mangle of Practice argues for an image of scientific practice as a “dance” of human and material agency, in which theory and the material world mutually transform (or “mangle”) one another. I'm ... Read full review


The Mangle of Practice
Building the Bubble Chamber
The Hunting of the Quark
Numerically Controlled Machine Tools
Living in the Material World
Through the Mangle

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About the author (1995)

Andrew Pickering is professor in the Department of Sociology and the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He is the author of "Constructing Quarks: A Sociological History of Particle Physics," also published by the University of Chicago Press.

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