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Representation in Scientific Practice

edited by Michael Lynch and Steve Woolgar

The MIT Press

"minritiO'l'" Massachusetts
London, England

First MlT Press edition 1990 CONTENTS

1988 Kluwer Academic Publishers

Preface vii

This book first appeared as a special issue of Human Studies, vol. It, nos. M. Lynch and S. Woolgar Introduction: Sociological
2-3 (AprilJJuly 1988). The essays by Franc;:oise Bastide and Bruno L atour
orientations to representational practice in science
have been added for this edition.
B. Latour Drawing things together 19
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
P. Tibbetts Representation and the realist-constructivist
in scientific practice / edited by Michae! Lynch and controversy 69
Sieve Woolgar.-Ist ed.
p. cm. K. Amann and K. Knorr Cetina The fixation of
"First appeared as a issue of Human vel. J J, nos. (visual) evidence 85
2-3 (April/July 1988). verso.
Includes bibliographical references. S. Woolgar Time and documents in researcher interaction:
ISBN 0-262-62076-6 Some ways of making out what is happening in experimental
I. Scientific illustration. 2. Representation (Philosophy) science ]23
I. Lynch, Michael, 1948- . n. Woolgar, Steve.
1990 M. Lynch The externalized retina: Selection and
502.2'2-dc20 90-5466 mathematization in the visual documentation of objects in the
CJP life sciences ]53

F. Bastide The iconography of scientific texts:

principles of analysis 187

G. Myers picture tells a story: Illustrations in E.O.

Wilson's Sociobiology 231

J. Law and M. Lynch Lists, field guides, and the descriptive

organization of seeing: Birdwatching as an exemplary
observational activity 267

L.A. Suchman Reore:selltirlg practice in cognitive science 301

R. Amerine and J. Bilmes Following instructions 323

S. Yearley The dictates of method and policy: Interpretational

structures in the representation of scientific work 337

Index 357

Woolgar, S. (1980). Discovery: Logic and sequence in a scientific text. In

K. R. Krohn and R. Whitley (Eds.), The .ocidJ process
of scientific Investigation, of the sciences yeaFbook, Vol. 4.
Dordrecht: Reidel.
Drawing things together
Woolgar, S. (198 I). Interests and explanation in the social study of science.
Social Studies of Science 11:365-394.
Woolgar, S. (1983). Irony in the social study of science. In K. Knol1'-Cetma BRUNO LATOUR
and M. Mulk ay (Eds.), Science observed: Perspectives 011 the sodal stud.y Centre de Socioiogie, Ecole des Mines, Paris
of science. London and Hills: Sage .
Wooigar, S., Ed. (1988). KnQwled.ge and reflexivity: New
Frontier, in tile
sociology of knowledge. London: Sage.
Wooigar. S., and Pawluch. D. (1985). Ontological gerrymlmdering:
anatomy of social problems explanations. Socidl Problems 32 :2l4-227.
Yoxen, E. (1987). Seeing with sound: A study of the development of medi l. Putting visualization and cognition into focus
cal images . In W. Bijker, T. Hughes and T. Pinch (Eds.), The social COIt
struction of technological systems: New directions in the and
It would be nice to to define is specific to our modern
history of technology. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
scientific culture. It would be still nicer to find the most economical
explanation (which might not be the most economic one) of its
origins and special To arrive at a parsimonious ex-
planation it is not to appeal to universal traits of nature. Hy-
potheses about in the or human consciousness, in
structure of the in social in "mentalites," or in the
economic infrastructure which are posited to explain the emergence
of or its present are simply too not
to say hagiographic, in most cases and plainly racist in more than a
few others. Occam's razor should cut these explanations short. No
"new man" emerged In
and there are no mutants with brains working inside modern
laboratories who can think differently from the rest us. The idea
that a more rational mind or a more scientific method
emerged darkness and chaos is too complicated a hypothesis.
It seems to me that the first step toward a convincing
is to adopt this a priori position. It clears the field of study of any
single distinction between prescientific and cultures,
minds, methods, or As Goody points the "grand
dichotomy" with its certainty should be replaced by

An earlier version of this article was published under the title "Visualization
and Cognition: with Eyes and Hands," in and Society:
Studies in the of Culture Past and Present, vol. 6 (1986), pp. 1-40.
We thank JA) Press for p ermission to reprint the article here.

many uncertain and divides (Goody, 1977). This nega We have to steer a course can lead us out simple relativ-
tive move frees us from positive answers that strain credulity. I and. by positing a few, simple, empirically verifiable causes,
All such dichotomous can be convincing only as long can account for the enormous differences in effects that everyone
as they are by a strong asymmetrical bias that treats the knows are We need to the of the but
two sides of the divide or border very differently. As soon as this more mundane explanations than that of a divide in human
loses hold, cognitive abilities jump in all directions: sor- consciousness.
cerers become Popperian falsificationists; naive But here we run into another preliminary problem. How mun
believers; engineers become "bricoleurs"; as to the dane is mundane? When people back away from mental causes, it
erers, they may seem quite rational (Knorr, 1981; usually means they find delight in material ones. 'Ul1,,<11""'"
These quick reversals prove that divide between prescientific changes in the capitalist mode of production, by means of many
and scientific culture is a border-like that between Tijuana " "distortions," and "mediations," influence the ways
and San It is enforced arbitrarily by police and hl1"""",,,'r.,t of proving, arguing and "Materialist" explanations often
rep'resent any natural boundary. Useful for teaching, refer to deeply entrenched phenomena, of which science is a super
pOJlenm;:s, commencement addresses, these "great divides" do not structure (Sohn-Rethel, 1978). The net result of is that
provide any explanation, but on the contrary are the things to nothing is empirically verifiable since is a yawning gap be
explained (Latour, 1983). tween economic trends and the fine details cognitive in-
There are, however, good reasons why these novations. Worst of all, in order to explain we have to
though constantly disproved, are tenaciously Ul<I.IIIL,tlUl'vU, before one specific science, that of economics. So, ironically, many
the gap between the two instead of narrowing, may even "materialist" accounts of the emergence of are in no way
widen. The relativistic position reached by taking the first I material since they ignore precise and craftsmanship
propose, and giving up grand dichotomies, looks ludicrous because knowing and hide from scrutiny the omniscient economic historian.
of the enormous consequences of science. One cannot equate It seems to me the only way to escape the simplistic relativist
"intellectual" described Goody (1977, ch, and Galileo in position is to avoid both "materialist" and "mentalist" explanations
study; folk knowledge of medicinal herbs and the National at an costs and to look instead for more parsimonious accounts,
Institute of Health; careful procedure of corpse interrogation in which are empirical through and through, and yet to explain
the Ivory Coast and the careful planning of DNA probes in a the vast effects of science and technology.
California laboratory; the storytelling of myths somewhere It seems to me that the most powerful explanations, that those
in South African bush and the Big Bang theory; the hesitant that the most out of least, are the ones that take writing
calculations of a four-year-old in laboratory the cal and imaging craftsmanship into account. They are both material and
culation of a of Field Medal; the abacus and the new mundane, they are so practical, so modest, so pervasive, so
super-computer Cray n. The differences in the effects of science to the hands and the eyes that they escape attention. Each of
and technology are so enormous that it seems not to look them deflates grandiose schemes and conceptual dichotomies and
for enormous causes. Thus, even if scholars are dissatisfied [OUl1\.....,.:> them by simple modifications in the way in groups
these extravagant causes, even if they they are arbitrarily of people argue with one another using paper, prints and dia
falsified by daily experience and often contradictory, they grams. Despite their different methods, fields, and goals, this strat
prefer to maintain them in order to avoid the absurd consequences egy of deflation links a range of very different studies and endows
of relativism. Particle physics must be radically different in some them with a which is both ironic and refreshing.2
way from folk botany; we do not know how, but as a stop-gap so these scholars, 1 was struck, in a of a biology
lution the idea of rationality is better than (HoWs and ratory, by the way in which many aspects of laboratory practice
Lukes, 1982). could be ordered looking not at the scientists ' brains (1 was for-
22 23

bidden at cognitive structures (nothing nor at with prints and images has to in the power of
same for thirty years), but at transformation symbols isolated from anything else.
paper (Latour is a objection. We must admit that when talking of
literature, and the way and print it is easy to shift from the most powerful expla-
everything was into inscriptions, was not my to one that is trivial and reveals only of the
I first thought, but was for what the laboratory was Instru which we want to account. lists, formu-
ments, for instance , were of various types, ages, and degrees of drawings, files, dictionaries,
sophistication. were pieces of furniture; filled and so on, depending on way are put into fo-
rooms, employed many technicians, and took many to run. cus, may explain almost everything or almost nothing. It is all too
But their end result, no matter the field, was always a small window easy to throw a set of c1icMs together argu
through which one could read a very few poor ment about the Greek alphabet ( 1 9 80), or Walter Ong's rendering of
repertoire blots, bands, columns). All inscriptions, the method ( 1 97 1 ), all the way to passing
as I called were combinabl e , superimposable could, with through obsession with double-entry book-
of up, be integrated as in text without forgetting the Bible. Everyone agrees that
were writing. Many of the intellectual feats I and writing are everywhere but how much
was could be rephrased as soon as activity of burden can they carry? How many cognitive abilities
paper became the not only facilitated , but thoroughly explained by them?
of jumping to explanations involving high theories or differences in through this literature , I a sinking feeling that
logic, I could to the l evel of simple craftsmanship as firmly as we are alternatel y on firm new down in an old
Goody. The domestication or disciplining of was still going I want to find a way to focus firmly so that we know
on with instruments similar to those to which When what to from our deflating
these resources were lacking, the selfsame stuttered, hes- To this focus, first we must in which situations we
itated, nonsense , and displayed every kind of political expect changes in the and imaging procedures to
or cultural Although their minds, their scientific methods, any difference at all in the way we argue, prove, and believe.
their world-views, and their cultures were still Without this preliminary step, will, depending on the
conversation could not in their proper context, be granted either too much or too little weight.
inscriptions or the practice of could. Unlike L eroi-Gourhan ( 1 9 64) we not wish to consider all the
can be broken down into many small, unex- history on writing and visual with primitive man and
sets of skill s to and to read ending up with modern computers. now on, we will be inter-
and write But there is a major this strat- only in a few specific invention s in writing and imaging. To
egy of Its results seem both obvious-close to being lit- this specificity we have to more closely at the construc-
erally a too weak to account vast consequences harder facts.]
of science technology that cannot, we above, be denied. Who will win in an agonistic encounter between two authors and
Of course, everyone might happily agree that printing, and between them and all the they to build up a statement
visualizing are important as ides of the revolution or of the the one able to muster on the the largest number
psychogenesis of scientific thought. They might necessary but of well aligned and faithful a llies. definition of victory is com
they cannot be sufficient causes. not. The de- mon to war, politics, law, I shall nOW show, to science and
flating may rid us of one mystical technology. My contention is that and imaging cannot
Divide , but it wil l ,
u s into a worse kind o f mysticism i f the researcher themselves explain the our scientific societies, "'A....... I"
24 25

insofar as they help to make this agonistic situation more favorabie. cannot be, because La Perouse does something that is going to cre
Thus it is not all the anthropology of writing, nor all the history of ate an enormous difference between the Chinese and the European.
visualization, that interests us in this context. Rather, we should What is, for the former, a drawing of no importance that the tide
concentrate on those aspects that help in the mustering, the presen may erase, is for the latter the single object of his mission. What
tation, the increase, the effective alignment, or ensuring the fidelity should be brought into the picture is how the picture is brought
of new allies.We need, in other words. to look at the way in which back. The Chinese does not have to keep track, since he can gen
someone convinces someone else to take up a statement, to pass it erate many maps at will, being born on this island and fated to die
along, to make it more of a fact, and to recognize the first author's on it. La Perouse is not going to stay for more than a night; he is
ownership and originality. This is what I call "holding the focus not born here and will die far away. What is he doing, then? He is
steady" on visualization and cognition. If we remain at the level of passing through all these places, in order to take something back to
the visual aspects only, we fall back into a series of weak cliches or Versailles where many people expect his map to determine who was
are led into all sorts of fascinating problems of scholarship far away right and wrong about whether Sakhalin was an island, who will
from our problem; but, on the other hand, if we concentrate on the own this and that part of the world, and along which routes the next
agonistic situation alone, the principle of any victory, any solidity ships should sail. Without this peculiar trajectory, La Perouse's ex
in science and technology escapes us forever. We have to hold the clusive interest in traces and inscriptions will be impossible to un
two eyepieces together so that we turn it into a real binocular; it derstand-this is the first aspect; but without dozens of innovations
takes time to focus, but the spectacle, I hope, is worth the waiting. in inscription, in projection, in writing, archiving, and computing,
One example will illustrate what I mean. La Perouse travels his displacement through the Pacific would be totally wasted-and
through the Pacific for Louis XV I with the explicit mission of bring this is the second aspect, as crucial as the first. We have to hold the
ing back a better map. One day, landing on what he calls Sakhalin, two together. Commercial interests, capitalist spirit, imperialism,
he meets with Chinese and tries to learn from them whether Sak thirst for knowledge, are empty terms as long as one does not take
halin is an island or a peninsula. To his great surprise the Chinese into account Mercator's projection, marine clocks and their mak
understand geography quite well. An older man stands up and ers, copper engraving of maps, rutters, the keeping of "log books,"
draws a map of his island on the sand with the scale and the details and the many printed editions of Cook's voyages that La Perouse
needed by La Perouse.Another, who is younger, sees that the ris carries with him. This is where the deflating strategy I outlined
ing tide will soon erase the map and picks up one of La Perouse's above is so powerful. But, on the other hand, no innovation in the
notebooks to draw the map again with a pencil. .. way longitude and latitudes are calculated, clocks are built, log
What are the differences between the savage geography and the books are compiled, copper plates are printed, would make any dif
civilized one? There is no need to bring a prescientific mind into ference whatsoever if they did not help to muster, align, and win
the picture, nor any distinction between the closed and open pre over new and unexpected allies, far away in Versailles. The prac
dicaments (Horton, 1 977 ), nor primary and secondary theories tices I am interested in would be pointless if they did not bear on
(Horton, 1 9 82 ), nor divisions between implicit and explicit, or con certain controversies and force dissenters into believing new facts
crete and abstract geography. The Chinese are quite able to think and behaving in new ways. This is where an exclusive interest in
in terms of a map but also to talk about navigation on an equal visualization and writing falls short, and can even be counterpro
footing with La Perouse. Strictly speaking, the ability to draw and ductive. To maintain only the second line of argument would offer
to visualize does not really make a difference either, since they all a mystical view of the powers provided by semiotic material-as
draw maps more or less based on the same principle of projection, did Derrida (1 9 67 ) ; to maintain only the first would be to offer an
first on sand, then on paper. So perhaps there is no difference after idealist explanation (even if clad in materialist clothes).
all and, geographies being equal, relativism is right? This, however,
26 27

The aim of paper is to pursue the two an:umient at 2.1 Optical rnlrl,<i/,'Uf'11CV
once. To say it in other words, we do not find all eXlplanat,ioflS
in terms of inscription equally convincing, but only I will review is one of the most Ivins
us to understand how mobilization and wrote it years ago and saw it all in a few pages. The
sources is achieved. We do not find all eXlplanaltlOI[lS rationalization that took place during the so-called "scientific rev
social groups, or economic trends, olution" is not of the mind, of the eye, of philosophy, but of the
only those that a mechanism to sum up "
sight. Why is perspective such an important invention? "Because
"interests," " and "trends": mechanisms which we be- of its logical of internal invariances all the
lieve, depend upon manipulation of paper, print, transformations produced by changes in spatial (Ivins,
on. La us the way since without new of 1973:9).In linear perspective, no matter from what distance and
scriptions nothing usable would have come back to Versailles from angle an object is seen, it is always possible to trans-
his long, costly, voyage; but without this "f ... .,... """ .."l"".VU late to obtain the same object at a size as seen from
that required him to go away and to come back so that in another position. course of this translation,
France might be convinced, no modification in inscription would erties have not modified. This immutability
have made a bit figure to a second crucial picture
The essential characteristics of inscriptions cannot be <iAt" ... ..'rI moves without it is possible to establish, in the
terms of visua1ization, print, and writing. In other what he calls a "two-way" rel:'ltlcmsltllD
perception which is at in this problem of tween and Ivins shows us how
cognition. New and new ways of perceiving movement through space with, so to speak, a return ticket. You can
the results If you wish to go out your way see a church in and carry it with you in London in such a
so as to force others to go out way as to reconstruct it in London, or you can go back to Rome
their ways, the main problem to solve is that of mobilization. You and amend the With perspective exactly as with La
have to go and to come back with the "things" if your moves are ouse's the same reasons-a new set of movements
not to be wasted. But the "things" have to be able to withstand the are made you can go out of your way and come back with
return trip without withering away. Further requirements: the all the places you these are all written in the same homo-
"things" you and displaced have to be at geneous (longitude and latitude, allows
once to those you want to convince and who did not go In you to to make them presentable,
sum, you have to invent objects which have the properties of being them at will.4
mobile but also immutable. presentable, readable and C0l7l0,mame is an essential determinant of ,..i,"...

with one another. technology because it creates "optical consistency," or, in simpler
terms, a avenue through space. Without it the ex-
terior relations of as their forms for visual awareness,
2. On immutable mobiles change with their in locations, or else their interior
do" (1973:9). The shift from the other senses to vision is a conse-
It seems to me most ",-,'H.<1' who have worked on the quence of the situation. You present absent one
between inscription ",..""..,rln""" and cognition, have, in fact, in can smell or or touch Sakhalin island, but you can look at the
various ways, writing about the history of these immutable map and determine at which bearing you will see the land when you
mobiles. send the next fleet. The are talking to one another, feeling,
hearing and touching each but they are now talking with
28 29

many absent things presented all at once. This presence/absence is At stage, on paper, hybrids can be created that mix drawings
possible through two-way connection established by from many sources. Perspective is not interesting it pro

many contrivances-perspective, projection, map, logbook, etc. vides pictures; on the other hand, it is interesting because
that allow translation without cOlrrupti:m. it creates complete nature seen as fiction, and fiction seen
There is another advantage of linear perspective to which he and as nature, with all the elements made so homogeneous in space that
attract our (1976). it is now possible to reshuffle them like a pack of
is as soon as religious or mythological themes and ing on the painting "S1. Jerome in his study," Edgerton says:
are drawn with the same perspective as that which is used for ren
dering nature (Edgerton, 1980:189). Antonello's St. is the perfect paradigm of a new con
sciousness of the physical world attained by Western European
In the even if subject the printed text were intellectuals by the fifteenth This
tific, the printed always a rational based showed especially by such as Leonardo da Vinci,
on the universal laws of geometry. In this sense the Scientific cesco di Giorgio Martini, Albrecht Hans Holbein
Revolution owes more to than to Leon more, aH of whom . . . had even developed a sophisticated
ardo da Vinci. (1980: 190) grammar and for quantifying natural phenomena in pic
tures. In their hands, picture making was becoming a pictorial
[l0I1-eve:n the or the most sacred-and language that, with could communicate more informa-
ture-even lowliest-have a ground, a common place, more quickly and by (sic) a potentially wider audience than
because they all benefit from the same "optical consistency. "$ any verbal language in human history. (1980:
only can you displace cities, landscapes, or natives and go back
forth to and from along avenues through space, illustrates the double line
t"f"lr<;:n,p.("TIVf" argument I presented in
you can
also reach saints, gods, heavens, palaces, or dreams with the same the previous Innovations in graphism are crucial but only

two-way avenues and look at through same "window insofar as they allow new two-way relations to be established with
objects (from nature or from and only as allow
pane" on the same two-dimensional surface. The two ways become
a freeway! Impossible palaces can be drawn realistically, inscriptions to more mobile or to stay immutable
but it is also to draw possible objects as if were uto- through all their displacements.
pian ones. For instance, as Edgerton shows, when he comments on
prints, objects can drawn in separated or
in exploded views, or added to the same sheet of paper at different 2.2 Visual culture
angles and perspectives. It not matter since the "opti-
cal consistency" allows aH to mix with one another. more striking than Italian perspective described by lvins
and Edgerton, is the Dutch "distance point" method for drawing
Oddly enough, perspective and supply as it been beautifully explained by Svetlana Alpers
geometric stability to pictures, also allow the viewer a momen (1983). The Dutch, she tells us, do not paint grandiose historical
tary suspension of his dependence on the law scenes as observed by someone through a carefully win
gravity. With a
little the viewer can imagine dowpane. They use very surface of their paintings (taken as the
volumes ....."".. "..,:.
freely in space as detached components of a device. (Edgerton, equivalent a retina) to let the world be painted straight on
193) When are captured in this way there is no privileged site for
the onlooker any more. tricks of the camera obscura transform
As says, the "mind" has at last "an eye".
30 31

large-scale three-dimensional objects into a two-dimensional how the same eyes suddenly to look at "represen-
around which the may turn at will. 6 tations. " "panopticon" she describes is afait social total that
The main interest of Alpers' book for our purpose is the way she redefines all aspects of the culture. More importantly, Alpers does
shows a "visual culture" over time. She does not not explain a new vision by bringing in "social or the
on the inscriptions or the pictures but on simultaneous trans "economic infrastructure." new that re-
formation art, theory of vision, organization of crafts sults in a worldview at once what is science, is art,
economic powers. talk of "worldviews, " this and what it is to have a world economy. To use my a little
powerful expression is taken metaphorically. Alpers provides this lowland country becomes powerful by making a few crucial inven
old expression with its material meaning: how a culture sees the tions which allow people to accelerate mobility to enhance
world, and makes it visible. A new visual culture redefines both the immutability of inscriptions: the world is thus up in
what it is to see, and What is to see. A citation of Comenius this country.
aptly a new um;esaon anew: Alpers' description of visual culture reaches the same re-
sult as study of technical drawings: a new place
We will now speak of in which objects must is designed for fact and fiction, words images. The map itself is
sented to the senses, if the impression is to be distinct. such a but the more so when it is used to ethno-
be readily understood if we consider the process of actual graphic inventories her chapter or captions V),
If the object is to be seen It IS (I) it skylines and so on. The main quality of the new space is
placed the eyes; (2) not far off, but at a reasonable not to "objective, " as a naIve definition of realism claims,
tance; (3) not on one side. straight before the eyes; and (4) so but rather to have optical consistenc y. consistenc y entails the
that the front the objects not turned from, but UWC\';UCI art of describing everything and the possibility of from one
towards, the observer; (5) the eyes first take in the type of trace to another. Thus, we are not surprised let-
a whole; (6) and then proceed to distinguish parts; (7) mspeCl- ters, lenses, words, perspectives, il-
these in from the to (8) that lustrated children' S books. microsco pes, and telescope s come
be paid to and every part; (9) until they are all grasped by together in this visual culture. All innovations are "to se-
means of their essential attributes. If these requisites be properly cretly see and without suspicion what is done in other
observed, takes place successfully; but if one be places" (cited in Alpers, 1983:201).
its success is only partial. (cited in AJpers, 1983:95)

This new for defining the act is to be 2.3 A new way of accumulating time and space
both in the of the in modern laboratories.
enius' advice is similar to both that of Boyle when he disciplined Another will demonstrate that inscriptions are not inter-
the witnesses his air-pump experiment (Shapin, 1984) and esting per se but only because they either or
the neurologists studied by when the immutability of traces. The invention of print and on
cells (Lynch, 1985a). before and outside labo- science technology is a cliche of historians. But no one has
certainly use their eyes, but not in way. They Jook at renewed this Renaissance argument as completely as Elizabeth
t?e spectacle the world, but not at this new type of image Eisenstein (1979). Why? she considers the printing press
signed to transport the objects of the world, to accumulate to be a mobilization a device makes
Holland, to them with and legends, to combine both at the same time. Ei-
at will. Alpers makes understandable what Foucault (1966) ony

a secondary cause that would put all the efficient

causes in re SeI1lsH:m. every grand question about the the
lation with one another. The printing press is obviou
sly a powerful Revolution, and new Capitalist economy can be re-
cause that sort. Immutability is by the process
cast by looking at what the publisher and the printing press r:na e
ing many identical copies; mobility by the numbe
r of possible. The reason why this old explanation on ne hfe m
paper, the movable type. The links between places in her treatment is that Eisenstein not only focuses on graphlsm, but
and space are completely modified by this fantas
tic accelera- I.;WlLII!'>';;1> in the graphism that are linked to the mobilization
tion of immutable mobiles which circulate
in all instance, she explains (p. 508 ff. following 1953)
lions in Europe. As Ivins has shown,
plus the printing the puzzling phenomenon a time between the jntr
duction of
press plus aqua forte is the really important
combination since printing press and beginning of exact pictures. At
books can now carry with them the realistic images . .
what they first, the press is simply to herbanes, anatomical
talk about. For the first time, a location can
accumulate other plates, maps, ?
cosmologies that are centuries ol and
synoptically be deemed inaccurate much later. If we were lookmg only at the
to the eye; better still, synoptic once reworked, ",,..,,.,..t,,,, level this phenomenon seem puzzling, but once we
amended, or disrupted, can be spread with no modifi
cation to consider the deeper structure this is easily explained. displace
places and available at other
ment of many immutable mobiles comes the old texts are
After discussing historians who propose many contra
dictory in- spread everywhere can be gathered more cheaply in one
UU'I;;U\,CI> to explain the .
of astronomy, Eisensle n
But then the contradiction between them at last becomes m
the most literal sense. The many where these texts are syn-
Whether the sixteenth-century astronomer confro
nted materials optically offer many counterexamples (different
derived from fourth century B.C. or composed in the different organs with different names, different shapes the coast-
fourteenth A. D. , or whether was more to the various rates of different currencies, laws). These
scholastic or humanist currents of thoughts, seems
of signif- counterexamples can added to the old texts and, in turn, are
in particular than the fact that a] l manners spread without modification to all the settings where this pro-
diverse materials were seen in the course of one life time
cess of may be resumed. other words, errors are
by one pair of eyes. For Copernicus as for Tycho
, the result was accurately reproduced and spread with no changes. But
heightened awareness and dissatisfaction
are reproduced fast, and with no further changes.
the inherent data. (1979:602)
at the end, the accuracy from the medium to message,
from the printed book to context with which it establishes a two-
Constantly, the author shifts attention with devast
ating irony from way connection. A new interest in " Truth" not come from a
mind to the surface the mobilized resources: new vision, but from the same old applying itself to new
objects that mobilize space differently.7
" To discover the truth of a proposition in Euclid
," wrote John The of Eisenstein's is to transform ex-
Locke, is need or use revelation, God
planations into the history immutable mobiles. and again
nished us with a natural and surer means to arrive . .
at she shows that before advent of print every possIble mtellectual
of them:' In the eleventh century, however, God
had not fur- feat had been achieved-organized scientific method,
Western scholars with a natural and sure means
or grasp refutation ' data collection, theory making-everything had
a EucHdean theorem. Instead the most learne
d men in tried, and in all disciplines: geography, cosmology, medicine, dy
Christendom in a fruitless search to what Eu- namics, politicS, economics, and so on. But each achievement
clid meant referring to interior angles. (l979:64 9) stayed local temporary just because there was no way to move
34 35
their results elsewhere and to bring in those others without new spot to support a point. After Tycho Brahe's achievement
corruptions or errors being introduced. For instance, each carefully stein, 1979) the dissenter either has to quit and what cos
amended version of an old author was, after a few again mologists say as a hard or to produce counterproofs by
adulterated. No irreversible gains could be made, and so no large persuading his prince to invest a comparab le amount of money in
scale long-term capitalization was possible. The printing press does observatories. In this, the "proof race" is similar to the arms race
not to the to method, to the one competitor
because the feedback mechanism is the same.
It simply conserves and spreads everything no matter how wrong, starts building up harder facts, the others have to do the same or
strange, or wild. It makes everything mobile but this mobility is not else submit.
offset by adulteration. The new scientists, the new clerics, the new This recasting of argument in terms of immut-
merchants, and the new princes, described by Eisenstein, are no mobiles may allow us to overcome a difficulty in her argument.
different from old ones, but they now look at new material that Although stresses the importance publishers' she
keeps track of numerous places and times. No matter how inaccu- does not account for the innovations themse lves. The
rate these traces at first, they will all become h" n_h' printing press barges her account the exogeneous
as a consequence of more mobilization and more immutability. A of many historian s when they talk about technica l innovations. She
mechanism is invented to irreversibly capture accuracy. Print plays puts the semiotic aspect of print and the mobiliza tion it allows into
the same as Maxwell's demon. No new theory, worldview, or excellent focus, but the technical necessiti es inventing the press
spirit is necessary to explain capitalism, the reformation, and sci are far from obvious. If we consider agonistic situation I use as
ence: they are the result a new step in the long history im reference point, the pressure that favors something like the printing
mutable mobiles. press is Anything that will accelerate mobility of the
up Ivins' argument, both Mukedi (1983) Eisenstein traces that a location may obtain about another or anything
focus again on the illustrated book. For these authors, that will allow these traces to move without transform ation from
revolution had already happened as soon as one to another, will favored: geometry , projection, per-
were printed. botany, architecture, mathematics, none spective, bookkeeping, making, aqua forte, coinage new
of these sciences can describe what they talk about with texts ships (Law, 1986). The privilege of printing press comes from
alone; need to show the But showing, so eS!ien.t.al its ability to help many innovations to act at once, but it is only one
to convince, was utterly impossible before the invention of "graven innovation among the many that help to answer this simplest of aB
images." A text could be copied with only some adulteration, questions: how to dominate on a scale? This is useful
not so a an plate, or a map. The effect on the since it helps us to see that the same mechanism, the effects
construction of facts is sizable if a writer is able to provide a reader which are described by Eisenstein, is still at work today. on an ever-
with a text that presents a large number the it is talking scale at the frontiers of and technology. A few
about in one place. If you suppose that all readers and the days in a laboratory reveal that the same trends that made the print
writers are doing the same, a new world will emerge from the old new
ing press so necessary, still act to produce new data
one without any additional cause. Simply because the dissen space telescopes, new chromatographies, new equation s, ne v:'
ter will have to do the same thing as his opponent. In order to ners, new questionnaires, etc. mind is still being domesticated.
"doubt back," so to he will have to write another have
it printed, and mobilize with copper plates the counterexamples he
wants to oppose. The cost of disagreeing will 3. On inscriptions
Positive feedback will under way as soon as one is to
muster a s
number of mobile, readable, visible resources at one What is so important in the images and in the inscriptions scientist
and are busy drawing, inspecting, calcula ting,
study of clinical medicine,
and discussing? It is, first of all, the unique advantage they give in Michel Foucault, in his well-known
from small-scale practice to a
the rhetorical or polemical situation. "You doubt what I say? I'll has shown the same transformation
). The same medical mind
show you." And, without moving more than a few inches I unfold large-scale manipulation of records (1963
if applied to the bellies,
in front of your eyes figures, diagrams, plates, texts, silhouettes. wiIl generate totally different knowledge
essive patients, or if applied
and then and there present things that are far away and with which fevers, throats, and skins of a few succ
en bellies, fevers, throats,
some sort of two-way connection has now been established. I do to well-kept records of hundreds of writt
and all synoptically present.
not think the importance of this simple mechanism can be overes and skins, all coded in the same way
in the mind, or in the eye of
timated. Eisenstein has shown it for the past of science, but eth Medicine does not become scientific
of old eyes and old minds to
nography of present laboratories shows the same mechanism its practitioners, but in the application
ns, the hospitaL But it is in
(Lynch, 1985a, 1985b; Star, 1983; Law, 1985). We are so used to new fact sheets inside new institutio
s demonstration is clos
this world of print and images, that we can hardly think of what it Discipline and Punish (1975) that Foucault'
main purpose of the book is to
is to know something without indexes, bibliographies, dictionaries, est to the study of inscriptions. The
h is seen by invisible onlook
papers with references, tables, columns, photographs, peaks, illustrate the shift from a pow er whic
everything about everyone.
spots, bands.9 ers, to a new invisible power that sees
ysis is not to focus only on
One simple way to make the importance of inscriptions clearer is The main advantage of Foucault's anal
and drill , but also on the sort
to consider how little we are able to convince when deprived of files, accounting books, time tables,
ons end up being 'so essen
these graphisms through which mobility and immutability are in of institutions in which these inscripti
a "panopticon" which allows
creased. As Dagognet has shown in two excellent books, no scien tial.lO The main innovation is that of
clinical medicine to emerge as
tific discipline exists without first inventing a visual and written penology, pedagogy, psychiatry, and
fully kept files. The panopticon
language which allows it to break with its confusing past (1969, full-fledged sciences from their care
ical consistency" necessary for
1973). The manipulation of substances in gallipots and alambics be is another way of obtaining the "opt
comes chemistry only when all the substances can be written in a power on a large scale.
that "we shall be rendering a
homogeneous language where everything is simultaneously pre In a famous sentence, Kant asserts
in discovering the path upon
sented to the eye. The writing of words inside a classification are service to reason should we succeed
"sure path of a science," how
not enough. Chemistry becomes powerful only when a visual vo which it can securely travel." The
tion of well-kept files in institu
cabulary is invented that replaces the manipulations by calculation ever, is, inevitably, in the construc
number of resources on a larger
of formulas. Chemical structure can be drawn, composed, broken tions that want to mobilize a larger
apart on paper, like music or arithmetic, all the way to Mendeleiev's scale.
in geology, as Rudwick has
table: "for those who know to observe and read the final periodic "Optical consistency" is obtained
al language. Without it, the
table, the properties of the element and that of their various com shown (1976), by inventing a new visu
no matter how many travellers
binations unfold completely and directly from their positions in the layers of the earth stay hidden and
way to sum up their travels,
tab e" ( 969:213). After having carefully analyzed the many inno and diggers move around there is no
can revolution, dear to Kant's
vations m chemical writing and drawings, he adds this little sen visions, and claims. The Coperni
very simple mechanism: if we
tence so close to Goody's outlook: heart, is an idealist rendering of a
come to us, or, more accurately,
cannot go to the earth, let the earth
earth, and come back with the
I mi?ht seem that we consider trivial details-a slight modifica let us all go to many places on the
res, that can be gathered, com
tion In the plane used to write a chlorine-but, paradoxically, same but different homogenous pictu
. in a few places, together with
these lIttle details trigger the forces of the modern world. (1 969:p. pared, superimposed, and redrawn
rocks and fossils.
199) the carefully labelled specimens of
38 39

In a book, Fourquet (1980) has the same and synoptically to the so as to modify the
for INSEE, the French institution that pro- outcome of an encounter. To make a number of com-
vides most statistics. It is of course to talk compatriots depart from their usual ways, many eth-
about the economy of a nation by looking at "it." had to go further and longer out their usual
invisible, as as of enquirers and mS'De.;;tors then come back. The constraints by convincing
filled in long questionnaires, as long as the answers have not out and coming back, are such that this can be
punched onto by computers, analyzed in only if everything about the savage life is transformed into
laboratory. Only at end can the economy be made immutable mobiles that are easily readable and presentable. In spite
piles of and lists. Even this is still too confusing, so that of his wishes, cannot do better. Otherwise, would either
redrawing is necessary to provide a few neat have to up "knowing" or give up making hard
grams that show the Gross National Product or the of 1987).
ments. panopticon thus achieved is similar in structure to a is no detectable difference between natural and social
gigantic instrument transforming the invisible world ence, as far as for graphism is If ""'.... u ,"'''
hanges into "the economy." This is why, at the beginning, I re- were looking at nature, at economies, at stars, at organs,
Jected the explanation that uses or would not see "evidence," so to is as a
"markets" or to account for 101.;11t=IU:: "n."',,,e rE>.nnTtl'll to naIve versions of empiricism 1969).
nology. visual construction of something like a "market" or an ClenlIS'[S start something once they stop at nature
"economy" is what explanation, and this cannot and look exclusively and obsessively at prints and flat
be used to account for SC14nce. lions.n I n around perception, what is forgotten
In another Fabian tries to account for anthro- is this drift from watching confusing ob-
pology by craftsmanship of visualization (1983). jects, to inspecting two-dimension al images which
main us and the savages, he argues, is not in the less confusing. Lynch, like all laboratory
culture, in the mind, or in the brain, but in the way we struck by extraordinary obsession of scientists with papers,
them. All asymmetry is created because we create a space a prints, diagrams, abstracts and curves on graph paper. No
time in which we the other cultures, but they do not do the matter what talk about, they start talking with some of
same. For instance, we map their land, but they have no maps believed by colleagues, only once
either of their land or ours; we list their past, but they two-dimensional shapes. The "oltljel;;t s
we build written but they do not. Fabian's argument, laboratories. Hlf:edm2
related to Goody's and also to Bourdieu's critique of ethnography dispatched. What is extracted from is a
(1972), is that once violence has been no mat extraction, like the few and lat-
ter what we do, we will not understand the savages any more. Fa- from the Chinese by La Perouse, is all that counts.
bian however, sees mobilization of all savages in a about the rats, but a great can be said
through collection, making, archives, IinJguisti(;s (Latour and Wooigar, 1979). (1981) and Star
as something evil. With candor, he wishes to find another way to (1983) have shown the simplification procedures at as if
"know" savages. But "knowing" is not a the images were never simple enough for the controversy to be set-
tive activity; harder about the other cultures have been pro- tled quickly. there is a dispute, great pains are to
duced in our in the same way as other facts about find, or sometimes to a new instrument of visualization.
ballistics, taxonomy or One place gathers in all the others which will enhance the accelerate the readings, and, as
40 41

Lynch has shown, conspire with the visual characteristics the of this book and provide as many versions as possible of the

things lend to diagrams on paper lines, stars taxonomic inventory.

which are points, well-aligned cells, Pinch (1985) shows a case of accumulation of such traces,
Again, the focus should be carefully set, It IS not each layer being deposited on the former one only when confidence
the inscription itself that should carry the burden of explaining its is stabilized. the astrophysicists "see" the
the power of science; it is the inscriptionas the fine edge and from the sun or any of the intermediary "blurs,"
final of a whole process of mobilization, that modifies "peaks," and "spots" that compose, by accumulation, the phenom
scale of the rhetoric. Without the displacement, the inscription is enon to seen? Again, we see that the mechanisms studied by
worthless; without the inscription the displacement is This Eisenstein for the press are still with us today at any of the
frontiers of For instance, baboon ethology to a text
is why mobilization is not to paper but paper always ap-
in prose in w hich the narrator talked about animals; the narrator
pears at the end when the of this mobilization is to be in-
Collections of rocks, samples, had to include in the text what he or she had seen first as
artifacts, gene banks, are the first to be moved around (Star and and a statistical rendering of the events; but with an
competition for the construction of harder facts, articles now
Griessemer, 1989). What counts is arraying mustering of
include more more layers of graphic display, the cascade
resources (biographies of naturalists, instance, are replete with
of columns summarized by diagrams, and equation s is still
anecdotes about crates, archives and specimens), but this arraying
is never simple enough. Collections are but only th.e unfolding. In molecular chromatography was read, a few
are the labels are in and the years ago, by bands of different shades gray; the interpretation
do not decay.Even of these shades is now done by computer , a text is eventually
is not enough, since a museum collection
is still too much for one "mind" to handle. So the collection will obtained straight out of the computer: .. ATGCGTI CGc. ... " Al
though more empirical studies should be made in many different
drawn, recorded, and this process will take place as long
fields, seems to a trend in They always
as more combinable geometrized forms not been obtained
move on direction of the greater of figures, numbers,
the (continuing the process through which spec-
had been extracted from contexts), letters, which is greatly facilitated by their homogeneou s treat-
phenomenon we are is not per se, ment as binary in and by computers.
the of ever simplified inscriptions that allow harder trend toward simpler simpler inscriptions that mobilize
larger and larger numbers of events in one cannot be
at greater cost. For the description of hu-
man fossils which used to be through drawings, is now made by stood if from agonistic model that we use as our point
superimposing a number of mechanical diagrams on the drawings. of reference. It is as necessary as the race for digging trenches on
the front in 1914. He who visualizes badly loses the his
photographs of the skies, although they produce neat little
spots, are still much too rich and confusing for a human eye to does not hold. Knorr has criticised this argument by taking an
at; so a computer and a laser eye have been to read the ethnomethodological standpoint (981). She argues, and rightly so,
photographs, so that astronomer never looks at the sky (too that an image, a diagram, cannot convince anyone, both oe(:au:se
costly), nor even at the photographs (too confusing). taxonomy there are always many interpretations possible, and, above all,
of plants is contained in a famous of books at Kew Gar cause the does not force the dissenter to look at it . She
den, but the manipUlation of book is as difficult as that of the sees the in inscription devices as an exaggeration of the
old manuscripts it exists in only one another com power of (and a one at that!). But such a position
puter is now being instructed to try to read the many different the point of my argument. It is because dissen-

is the one de-

ter can always escape and try out another interpretation , that so The staging of such "optical
another and
much energy and time is devoted by scientists to corner h i m and scribes: a few persons in the same room talk to one
is to
surround him with ever more dramatic visual effects . Although in point out two-dim ensiona l picture s ; these pictures are all there
principle any interpretation can be opposed to any text and see of the about which they talk. Just because we are u sed
in practice this is far from being the case ; the cost of dissenting to and breathe it like fresh air, does not mean that we
with each new collection, each new new should not describe all the little innovati ons that make it the
Brahe, i n Oranien burg,
redrawing. This is e special l y true if the phenomena we are asked to powerful device to achieve power. Tycho
believe are invisible to the naked eye; quasars, c hromosome s , brain had before his eyes for the first time in history all predictions
" pre visions" --{)f the planetar y moveme
nts; at
peptides, leptons, gross national products, classe s , and coastlines that is l iterally
are never seen but through the "clothed " eye of inscription devices. same place , written in the same language or code , he can
one more inscription, one more trick to enhance contrast, his own observations. This i s more than enough to account

one simple device to decrease background, or one coloring proce Brahe' s new " insight . "
dure be enough, all things equal, t o swing balance
of power and turn an incredible statement into a credible one that It was not because he gazed a t night skies instead o f a t old books
would then passed along without further modification. im that Tycho B rahe d iffered from star-gazers of the Nor do I

portance of this cascade of inscriptions may be ignore d when study think it was he cared more for " stubborn facts" and pre-
ing events in daily but it cannot be overestimated when measurement than had the Alexand rians or the Arab s . But
science and technology. he did have at his disposal , as few had him, two separate
sets of computations based on two different theories , compile d
it is possible to the inscription, but
setting in which the cascade of ever more written and num several centurie s apart which he could compare with each other.
is produced . What we are really dealing with is (Eisenstein , 1979:624)
the s taging of a scenography in which attention is on one
set of dramatized inscriptions. The setting works like a giant optical H istorians say that is the first to look at planetary motion, with
device that creates a new laboratory, a new type of vision, and a a mind freed of the prejudic es of the darker ages. No, says
new phenomenon to look at . I showed one such setting which I stein, he is the first not to look at the sky, but to look simultan
the former predicti ons his own , written down
called " Pasteur's theater of proofs" (Latour, 1 988a). Pasteur works ously to
as much on the as on the scene and the plot. What counts at to,!etller in the same
the is a simple visual perception: dead unvaccinated sheep ver
Danish observer was not only the last of the naked eye
s u s alive sheep. The earlier we go back i n the history of
observe rs; he was also the first careful observe r who took full
science , the more attention we see being paid to setting and the
the new powers of press-powers which en
to Boyle, instance, the ...,,'''' .. ,.''' '- advantage
pinpoin t
ing account of his vacuum pump experiment described by Shapin abled astronomers to detect anomal ies in old records , to
( 1 984), had to invent not onl y the phenomenon, but the instrument more precisel y and register in catalogs the location of each
regions , fix each fresh observa tion
to make it visible , the which the instrument was displayed, to enlist collaborators in many
and make necessary correct ions in success ive
the written and printed accounts through which the silent in perman ent
could "about" the experiment, the type of witnesses admitted editions. ( 1979:625)
onto the and even the types of commentaries the potential
witnesses were allowed to utter. " Seeing the vacuum" was possible The discrepancies proliferate, not by looking at the but by
onl y once all witnesses had been disciplined. carefully superimposing columns of angles and azimuths. N o con-
44 45

tradiction or counter predictions could ever have been Con- 2. They are immutable when they move, or at least everything is
tradiction, as Goody says, is neither a of the mind, nor of to obtain this result: specimens are chloroformed, "''Uf'' rr. '''' t>
the scientific method, but is a property of letters and signs are stuck
_V''''''' _ v gelatin, even exploding stars are rf>("nr(1p,cI
new that on alone. on graph paper in each phase of their explosion.
The same mechanism is visible, to draw an example from a dif 3, They are made flat, is nothing you can dominate as eas-
ferent time and place, in Roger vision of a ily as a of a few square meters; there is nothing hidden
brain peptide. brain is as obscure as messy as Renais or convoluted, no shadows, no "double entendre. " In politics as i n
sance sky. Even the many first-level purifications of brain extracts science, when someone i s said to a question or to
nrc,v ulP a "soup" of The whole research a subject, you should normally look for the flat
is to
get peaks that are clearly readable out of a confused background. mastery (a map, a list, a file, a census, the wall of a gallery,
_ ..'".'''

of the which a neater is in turn purified a card-index, a repertory) and you wil l find it.
until there is only one peak on little window a pressure 4. scale of the inscriptions may be modified at will, without
l i quid chromatograph. Then the substance is injected in minute any change in their internal proportions, Observers never insist on
quantities into The contractions of the are this simple no matter what (reconstructed) phe-
hooked up, through electronic hardware, to a physiograph. What i s nomena, they all up being studied only when they reach
a t hand t o see the "endorphi ne" ? superimpo sition same average size. of galaxies are never bigger, when
of the first peak with the in the physiograph starts to produce are than nanometer-sized chromosomes; international
an object whose limits are the visual inscriptio ns produced in the trade is never much than mesons; scale of oil
lab. The object is a real object no more and no less any other neries end up having the same as plastic models of at-
since many such visual layers can be produced. Its resistance as oms. Confusion resumes outside a square meters. This trivial
fact depends only on number of layers that change of scale seems innocuous but it is the cause most
l emin's can mobilize all at once in one front of the dis- the "superiority" of and no one else
senter. each "objectio n" there is an inscriptio n that blocks the only with phenomena that can be dominated with the eyes and
dissent; soon, the dissenter is to quit the game or to come by hands, no matter when and where they come or what their
back later with other and visual displays. Objectivit y is original
erected the laboratory by mobilizing more 5. They can at little cost, so that all
ful allies. the instants of i n space can in
another time and This is " Eisenstein's effect. "
6. these inscriptions are mobile, flat, reproducible,
4. "jl"''''' ''''''''6 inscriptions to mobilize allies and of scales, they can be reshuffled and recombined. Most
of what we impute to in the mind may be explained by
we why it is so for Brahe this of inscriptions that all have the same
or Guillemin to work on two-dimensional inscri tions instead sistency. " The same is true of what we call "metaphor"
of sky, the health, or brain? What can they do with the and Woolgar, 1979, chap. 4; Goody, 1977 ; Hughes,
first that you cannot do with the second? Let me a few of the 1982).
advantages "paperwork. " 7. One aspect of these recombinations is that it is possible to su-
perimpose several images totally different and scales.
l . Inscripti ons are mobile, as I indicated for La Perouse's case. link and economics seems an IlUj-'V:!>:!>lUJII;;
Chinese, planets , of move; nO'WE 'IIE r perimpose a geological map with the printout the commodity
maps, photographic plates, and Petri market at the New York Stock requires good documen-
46 47

talion and takes a few Most of what we call " structure ," advantage of inscriptions, or the surplus-value that is gained
"pattern , " "theory, " and "abstraction " are consequences of the se through their capitalization.
superimpositions (Bertin , 1 973) . "Thinking is hand-work , " as H ei
degger said, but what is i n the hands are inscriptions. nine advantages should not be isolated one another
theories of savages are an of card indexing at the College and should always be seen in conjunct ion with the mobilization p ro
de France , exactly as Ramist's method i s , for Ong, an artifact of cess they accelerate and summari ze. I n other word s , every possible
prints at the Sorbonne ; or taxonomy a re- innovatio n that offers any of these advantages will be by

sult of the bookkeeping undertaken , among other places, at Kew eager scientists and engineer s: new photogra phs, new dyes to color

Gardens. more cel l CUltures, new paper, a more sensitive physio

8. But one of the most important advantages is that the graph , a new indexing system for l ibrarians , a new notation for al
lion can, after only little cleaning up, be made part of a written text . gebraic function, a new heating system to specimen s longer.
I have elsewhere at this common ground in which H istory of is the history of innovatio ns. role

inscriptions coming from instruments merge with already published the mind has been vastly as has been that of percep-
texts and new texts in This of tion (Arnheim , 1 969) . An average or an average man , wit h the
texts has been demonstrated by Ivins and Eisenstein for the past . same perceptual abilities, within normal social condition s , will gen
A present-day laboratory may still defined as the unique erate totally different output dependin g on whether his or her av
a text is made to comment on which are all ill erage skills apply to the confusin g world or to i nscriptio ns.
it. Because the comme ntary, earlier texts (through citations and ref It is especiall y interestin g to focus on the ninth advantage ,
erences), and "things" have the same optical consistency and cause it gives u s a way to make "formalis m" a more mundane and
same semiotic homogeneity, an extraordinary degree of certainty is a more material reality. go from " empirica l" to "theoreti cal"
achieved by writing and reading articles (Latour and sciences is to go from slower to faster mobiles , from more mutable
1 985 ; Lynch, 1 985a; Law, 1983). The text is not simply "illus to mutable inscriptio ns. trends we studied above do not
trated, " it carries all there is to see in what it writes about. Through break down when we look at formalism but , on the contrary, in
the laboratory, text and the spectacle of world up crease fantastica lly. Indeed, what we formalism is the acceler
same character. ation of displacem ent without transform ation. To grasp this point,

9. But the last advantage is the greatest . The two-dimensional let us go back to section 2. The mobiliza tion of many resource s
through space and time is essential for dominat ion on a scale.
of inscriptions allow them to merge with geometry. As we
saw for perspective, space on paper can be I proposed to these objects that allow this mobilizat ion to take
continuous with
th !ee-dimensional space. !,he place " immutab le mobiles. " I argued that the best of these
i s that we can work o n paper
With rulers and numbers, but still manipulate three-dimensional ob mobiles had to do with written, numbere d , or optically consiste nt
jects "out there" (lvins, 1 973). Better stil l , because of this optical paper But I al so indicated , though without offering an ex
consistency, everything, no matter planation , that we had to with cascades ever more simplified
it comes from , can be
converted into diagrams and numbers, and combinations of Dem- and costlier inscriptio ns. This ability to a cascade now to

and tables can used which are still to handle than be explained because written and imaged resource in one

words or silhouettes (Dagognet, 1 973). You cannot measure the sun , place, even with two-way connections, does not by itself guarantee
but you can measure a photograph the sun with a ruler. Then th e my superiority for the one who gathers them. Why? Because the
number of centimeters read can easily migrate through d ifferent gatherer of traces is immedia tely swamped in them. I s howed
scales, and provide solar masses for completely different object s . such a phenome non at work in Guillemi n's laboratory ; after only
This is what I call , for want o f a better term, the few days of letting the instrume nts run , the of printout were
48 49

enough to the (Latour and 1979, you see how the entire demonstration constitutes a reduction of
same thing happened to Darwin after a few years of collecting spec- the problem of equilibrium on i nclined planes to lever, which
imens with the Beagle; were so many crates was in itself removes the theorem the isolation in which it stood
almost squeezed out of his house. So by themselves inscriptions before. (Drake, 106)
do not help a location to become a center that dominates the rest
of the world. Something to be done to the inscriptions which is term "removing from isolation" is constantly used
similar to what the inscriptions do to the "things," so that at the by those who talk of theories. No wonder. If you just hold Galileo's
end a can manipulate all the on a vast diagram , you hold three domains ; when you hold the others, only
The same deflating strategy we used to show how "things" were one. The holding allowed a "theory" is no more (and
turned into paper, can how paper is turned into less paper. no less) than the holding of armies, or of stocks, or of positions
Let us as example "the effectiveness of Galileo's work" as space. It is fascinating to see that explains efficiency
it is seen by Drake (1970). Drake does indeed use the word formal Galileo's connection in terms of his creation of a geometr ical me
ism to designate what Galileo is able to do that predecessors dium is geometry and physics merge. This is a much more
were not. But what is described is more interesting than that. Drake material explanation than Koyre's idealist one, although " mat-
compares the diagrams and commentaries of Galileo with those two ter" i n renderin g i s a certain type o f inscription o n papers
older scholars, Jordan Stevin. Interestingly, in Jordan's and ways of looking at
onstration is, as you see, brought in as an Similar tactics that use diagrams in order to establish rapid links
afterthought to the geometry, by main force as it were" (1970, 103). between many problems are documented by cognitive
With diagram, this is the opposite: "The previous psychologists. Herbert Simon (1982) compares of ex-
situation is reversed; geometry is eliminated in favor of pure me perts and drawing diagrams when they are question ed
chanical intuition" (1970, 103). So, what seems to happen is that about physical problems (pumps, water flows , so
Galileo's two predecessors could not visually .....''''JlJ'Uuvu,'.. The crucial differen ce between experts and novices is exactly the
problem on a paper surface and see the result simultaneously as same as that pointed out by Drake:
both A in the geometry
by Galileo allows him to connect many different problems, whereas the crucial thing that in the expert behaviour was that
his two predecessors worked on disconnected shapes over which the formulation from the initial and the final condition was assem-
they had no control: in a way that the relations between them and hence the
answer could essentially be read off from it diagram].
Galileo's way merging geometry and physics apparent mon, 169).
in his proof of the same theorem in his treatise on motion
dating from ] 590. method suggested to him not only With this question in ind, one is struck by the metaphors "theo-
many corollaries but successive improvements of the proof itself use to celebrate rank The two main sets
of it. (Drake, 1970, 104) of metaphors insist respectively upon increased mobility and in
Good theories are opposed to bad ones or to
This ability to connect might located in Galileo's mind. In fact "mere collections of empirical facts" because they
what gets connected are three different visual horizons held syn access to them." Hankel, for instance, criticizes Diophanus in the
optically because the surface paper is considered as geometrical words that a French civil would use to denigrate Ni
space: highway'
so 51

Any requires a quite special method, which after will average Nobel winner. I f any shift in thinking occurs, i t has
not serve even for the most closely allied problem s. It is on that nothing to do the mind, but with the manipulation of the lab-
difficult for a modern mathematician even after studying oratory setting. Out of this setting no answer can be offered on
one hundred Diophantine solutions, to solve the 1 0 1 st problem' volume. proof of this is that without industrially calibrated
and if we have made the attempt, and some vain endeavour beakers himself would be totally to decide what is
read Diophantus' own solution, we shall be atonished to and Scribner, c hapter) . So again,
how suddenly he leaves the broad dashes into a side a priori to "higher cognitive functions" might
path and with a quick turn reaches goal . . . (cited in Bloor, and written
be concrete with new calibrated,
1 976: 102) objects. M ore Piaget is obsessed with conservation and
displacement through space without alteration and Garcia,
science, as Kant would say, is not the same for the 1 983). Thinking is tantamount to acquiring the ability to move as
Bororos and for us; are the systems of fast as possible while conserving as much of the as possible.
transportation identical. One could object that these are only What Piaget takes as the logic of the psyche, is the very logic of
aphors. but the etymology of metaph oros is itself enlightening. mobilization immutability which is so peculiar to our scientific
Precisely, it means displacement, transportation, transfer.
No societies, when want to produce hard to dominate on a
matter if they are mere images, these metaphors aptly carry large scale. No wonder that all these "abilities" to move such
obsession theoreticians for easy an d rapid com- a world get with schooling!13
munication. A more powerful theory, we is one that with We now come to an understanding of the matter that con-
fewer elements and fewer and simpler transformations makes stitutes point of departure is that we are constantly
to at other theory hesitating between several often contradictory indications from our
a powerful theory is celebrated it is senses. Most we caU "abstraction" is practice the belief
in terms of the most trivial power: holding that a written inscription must be believed more than any contrary
allows me to hold all the is the problem we indications from the senses. 14 Koyre, for instance, has shown that
have encountered right through this paper: how to assemble Galileo believed in the inertia principle on mathematical grounds
allies one (Latour, 1 988b). allow conscription.! even against the evidences offered to not only by the
A similar between ability to the practical work Scriptures, but also by the senses. Koyre that
of resources without is seen in much of the senses was to Galileo's Plalonist might
of cognitive science. In Piaget's tests, for much fuss is be so. But it mean practically? It means that faced with
made of water poured from a tall thin a short flat one. Galileo, in the last believed
If the children say the water volume they are noncon - Ulll,Ul"!.l diagram for calculating the law falling bod
serving as any laboratory most of the p he- ies, than any other falling bodies (Koyre, 1 966 : 1 47). When
nomena upon measure to or to believe in doubt, believe the inscriptions, written in mathematical terms,
in case of discrepancy. The shift from nonconserving to conserving no matter to what absurdities this might lead YOU , IS
might not a modification in but a shift in After Eisenstein's reworking the
indicators: the heigh t of the water in the first beaker and be- argument, redefinition of "visual culture,"
lieve it more than the reading from the flat beaker. The notion raphy of abstraction be easier: What is
"volume" is held between the calibrated exactly like Guil- a written, printed, mathematical form has ....." "t&... case
lemin's endorphin is held between several from at least five of doubt, common sense, the senses other than
different In other words, is his children vision, political tradition, and even the It is
to do a laboratory experiment comparable in difficulty to "
that of th e obvious that of society is overdetermined since it can
52 S3

be found in the written (Clanchy, 1 979); in the biblical exellesis really be moved ''''' P '''''''PC> without corruption. Desargues 's and
of the Holy and in the history of geometry Monge's works
1 954; Derrida, 1 967; 1 980). Without this peculiar ten,(lellCV
to privilege what is written, the power of inscription would helped to the view" or way of looking at
tirely lost, as in his discussion of Chinese mentally. In place of the imaginary of space-so difficult to
No matter how beautiful, r ich, precise, or realistic inscriptions may were the basis of perspective at that
be, no one would what they showed, if they could con allowed perspective to be seen
tradicted by other evidence of local, sensory origin or pronounce- 1 982:34)
ments of authorities. I feel that we would
step forward if we could this peculiar feature of our ",UlllUI \;; With descriptive geometry, the observer's position
the mobilization I have outlined several irrelevant. " It can viewed and photographed from any or
psychology and projected onto any is, distorted-and the result remains
but is strange anthropological true" (p. 35), still better Baynes and Push ( 1 98 1 ) in a
a in schools} to manipulate .. . 'Hr
splendid book 1 98 1 ) show how a few entine:ers
array them in ""')'-'<I:Ut;:.. to believe the last one Oil could master enormous machines that did not yet exist. These feats
more than any to the contrary. It is in the cannot be without industrial drawings. Booker, I,.I U'JLUII/:
this anthropology of geometry and an of scale that allows the
should be (Livingston, 1 986; Lave, 1 985, ] dominate the many:
1 982).
drawn is like an ideal
but in a that costs and i s easier to
S. Paperwork or steel. . . . If i s first well thought out, and
sential dimensions determined by calculations or
There are two ways in which the visualization processes we are all plan a or installation of machines can be quickly
i gnored ; one is to grant to the mind on paper and thing as well as the detail can most
granted to the hands, to the eyes, to the conveniently be submitted to the severest criticism . . . . If at
exclusively on the signs qua there is doubt as to which various possible is
UL,UI\J'U of which they are but most desirable then they are all sketched, compared with one
making, equations, another the most suitable can easily be chosen. (Blooler
chives, instrumentation, argumentation , 1 982, 1 87)
lected or depending on how they "'lUll .. . ..,,,., ,",, ,,,,,::>!
either inscription or mobilization. This link is visible not Industrial not only create a paper world that can
empirical not only in the (former) realm dimensions. It also creates a common
also in many endeavors from which SClem:e inscriptions to come together;
duly ''''''''e"",,, .-I erance can on the
In a beautiful book, Booker retraces the history for economic calculation, for defining the tasks to
drawings ( 1 982). Linear perspective (see above) organizing the sales.
" changed of pictures from being just
that of their projections onto planes" (p. 3 1 ). Bul But rtr",u",,, ,,,,, the utmost importance not only for
still <
on the observer 's position, so the objects could not but also for eXlecllticm by means of them the measurements
and proportions of all the parts can be so sharply and definitely this proces s can be continued until a few men consider millions as
determined the beginning that when it comes to manufac- if they were the palms of Common sense ironically
ture it is only to in materials used for con- makes fun of these "gratte-papiers" or "paper shufflers," and often
struction exactly what is shown in the wOlnd'ers what this " red is but the same question
Every part of the machine can in general be manufactured should be asked of the rest of science and technology. In our
dependently every other it is possible to tures "paper shuffling" is the source of an essential power, that
tribute the work among a g reat number of ".,-,,--- constantly escapes its is ipnlorfd
No substantial errors can arise work organised in this manner McNeill, in his fundamental book The Pursuit of Power ( 982),
and if it does happen that on a rare a been uses ability to distinguish Chinese bureaucracy from that of the
made it is immediately known with whom the blame accident. Accumulation of records and ideograms make
(Booker, 1 982, 1 88) Chinese Empire possible. But there is a major drawback with
grams ; once you cannot array them in a cascade in such a
Realms of reality that seem apart (mechanics, economics, way that thousands of records can be turned in one, that is literally
marketing, scientific org anization of work) are inches apart, once "punctualized" throug p geometrical or mathematical So
flattened out onto the same The accumulation of again, if we keep both the quality of the signs and the mobilization
in an optically consistent space once "universal ex- process in focus, we may understand careful limits have
changer" that allows work to be planned, dispatched, and put the to the growth of the Chinese imperium. and why
responsibility to attributed. 16 these limits to the mobilization of resources on a grand scale have
The connective quality of written traces is still more visible in been broken in Europe. It is to the power that is
most despised the me or the record. The gained by concentrating files written in a homogeneous and com
"rationalization" g ranted to bureaucracy since Weber binable form (Wheeler, 1969; Clanchy, 1 979).
has been attributed by mistake to the "mind" of (Prussian) bureau role the bureaucrat qua qua writer is
crats. It is all the mes themselves. A bureau in many ways, always misunderstood because w e take for g ranted that there exist,
and more and more every year, a small laboratory in many somewhere in macro-actors that naturally dominate the
elements can together just because their scale scene: Corporation, State, Productive Cultures,
nature been averaged out: texts, standards, ism, "Mentalit6s," etc. Once accepted, these large entities are then
payrolls, maps, surveys (ever since Norman conquest, as used to explain (or to not explain) a spects of "....,,<0 .....,..,
shown by Clanchy, 1 979). Economics , politics, sociology, hard and technology. The problem is that these entities could not exist
ences, not come into contact grandiose entrance of at all without the construction of long networks in which numerous
"interdisciplinarity" but through the back door of the file. faithful in which are, in
of bureaucracy is mysterious hard to study, but turn, summarized and displayed to convince. A " state," a "corpo
" bureau" is something empirically studied, and which ration," a " culture," or an "economy" are the result of a punctual
explains , because of its why some power i s t o an ization process that a few out of many traces. In
average mind by looking at domains which are far apart order to exist these entities have to be summed up somewhere
become literally inches apart; domains which are (Chandler, 1 977; Beniger, 1 986). Far from being the to the un
hidden become flat; thousands of occurrences can be looked at syn derstanding of science and technology, entities are the very
optically. More importantly, once mes start being every things a new understanding of science and technology should ex
where to ensure some two-way circulation of immutable HU" UIlt:S. plain. The actors to which sociologists of science are
they can arrayed in a cascade: files of files can be generated and keen to attach "interests" are immaterial in practice as long as pre-
56 57

cise mechanisms to their origin or and their main center of interest is to place the practical means of achieving
have not been proposed . foundation (Cicourel, 1 98 1 ) . Pentagon does not
A man is never more powerful than any the Russians' strategy than does his e ndor-
a throne; a man whose eye dominates put faith in
some sort connections are established with ODIDOSlnf,l some to
may be said to dominate. This domination, " "" " ""'''" ",p dubious, and spending billions to create new branches of science
but a slow construction and it can be corroded , .....,UllIV"'IIH that can the mobility of traces, perfect
stroyed if the files, and figures are made immutability, enhance readability, ensure their compatibility,
more readable, less combinable , or unclear when d is- quicken their display: satellites, networks of espionage, computers,
played. I n words , the scale o f a n actor i s not all absolute term radioimmunoassays, surveys. They will never
but a relative one that varies with the ability to capture, see more of the phenomena than what can build through these
nn", ..,.,.....t information about and times many immutable mobiles. This is obvious, but rarely seen.
Even the very notion of If this little shift from a sociallcognitive divide to the study of
to nn,rI"" ct<.nrl without an i....'rrii"'tiin... or a map inscriptions is accepted, then the importance of metrology appears
"great man" is a little man looking at a map . I n Mercalor's proper light. M etrology is the organization of stable
is transformed from a god who world measureme nts and standards. Without it no measureme nt is stable
. into a who holds it in his hand ! \;; lUJUl'H to allow either the homogenei ty the inscription s or their
Since beginning of this presentation on how to draw things return. It is not to that metrology costs up to
together, I have been recasting the simple of power: how three times the budget of all development, and that
the few may dominate the many, After McNeill's major reconcep- is for only the first of the metrological
tualization history of power in terms of mobilization, this age- 1 980). Thanks to the basic
old political philosophy and sociology caD be rephrased constants (time, space, weight, wavelength) and many biologi-
in way: how can distant or foreign and times be gath- and chemical standards may "everywhere"
ered in one in a form that allows all a nd times to (Zerubavel, 1 982; Landes, 1 983). universality of science and
at once, and which allows technology is a cliche of epistemology metrology is the practical
Talking of power is an achievement of this mystical universality. In practice it is costly and
task; talking of gathering, fidelity, lip, lransmis- full of holes (see Cochrane, 1 966 for the history of the Bureau of
sion, is an empirical one, as has illustrated in a recent M etrology is only the and primary component
study by John of the Portuguese ( 1986) . an ever-increasing number of activities we all have to
Instead using large-scale entities to explain and technol- undertake in daily life. Every time we look at our wristwatch or
ogy as most sociologists of science do, we should start from the a sausage at the every time applied labora-
inscriptions their mobilization and see how help small en- tories measure lead pollution, water purity, or control the quality
tities to become ones. In this shift from one research program industrial goods, we allow more mobiles to reach new
to another, and technology" will cease to be t he mysteri- "Rationalization" has very little to do with the reason of
ous cognitive object to be explained by social world . It wil l be bureau- and technocrats, but a lot to do with the maintenance
the main sources of power (McNeil l , 1982). To take metrological chains 1 98 1 ). This building of long net-
" - < - - _. .
macro-actors for granted studying the ma- works provides the stability of the main physical constants, but
them "macro," is to make and soci- there are many other metrological for less "universal "
To take the fabrication as our measures (polls, questionnaires, to fill in, accounts, tallies).
58 59

There is one more domain into which this .... .. .,UVj"'. to believe inscription, no matter how strange the consequences and
lion could some " I want to talk about it counterintuitive the phenomena. history of money is thus
beginning of this I rejected dichotomies between "mental- seized by the same trend as all the other immutable mobiles ; any
and "materialist" explanations . Among the interesting " ...U U I . innovations can money to its power
able mobiles there i s one that has received both loo little too bilization are kept: endorsement, paper money,
much attention: money. anthropology of money is as compli money. This trend is not due to the development of capitalism.
cated and as that of writing, but one thing i s dear. As "Capitalism" on the contrary, an empty word as long as
soon as money starts to circulate through different cultures , it de material instruments are not proposed to explain any capitalization
velops a few clearcut characteristics : it is mobile (once in at be it books, information or money.
pieces), it is immutable (once in it is countable (once i t is Thus, capitalism is not to be used to explain the evolution of sci-
_". ._." combinable, can circulate from things to ence and technology. It seems to me that it should be the
center evaluates and back. Money has received too much technology are in terms of
attention because it been thought of as something special, immutable mobiles it might be possible to explain economic capi
deeply in the infrastructure of economies, whereas it i s just talism as process of mobilization and conscription. What
one of the many mobiles necessary if one place is to indicates this are the many weaknesses of money; money is a nice
exercise power over many other places far apart space time. immutable mobile that circulates from one point to another but it
a type of immutable mobile among others it has, however, re- "''',...... &." very If the name the game is to ac(ur:nulla
ceived too little attention. Money is used to all states enough allies in one place to modify the belief and behavior of all
in exactly the way that coded all by longitude the others , money is a poor resource as long as it is isolated. It
and latitude (actually, in his log book Prouse registered bot h becomes useful when it is combined with all other
the places on the map the of each good as if it were t o device s ; then, the different points of world become really trans-
sold i n some other place). In this way, i t i s ...",,,,,,Ikl.. ported in a manageable to a place then
to to display, and to recombine al l a center. Just as with Eisenstein's printing pres s , which is one factor
Money is neither more nor less "material" than mapmaking, engi that allows all the others to merge with one another, what counts is
neering drawings, or statistics. not the capitalization of money, but the of com
Once its ordinary is recognized, "abstraction" of patible inscriptions. Instead of talking of merchants, princes , sci-
money can no longer be object of a fetish cult. For InSlanCe , astronomers, and engineers as having some sort of rellltlcm
importance o f art of accounting both in economies and with one another, it seems to me it would be more productive to
falls nicely into place. Money is not interesting as such but as one talk about "centers of calculation. " currency in which they
of immutable mobile that l inks and so it is no ,-<U'-Ulau;; is the that they calculate only with
wonder if it quickly merges with written inscriptions as inscriptions and mix together in calculations inscriptions
columns, and double-entry (Roovel", 1 9(3) . coming from the most diverse disciplines . The calculations
No wonder if, through accounting, it i s possible to gain more just are important than the way they are in "Q.'"'''''U''' ''
by recombining numbers (Braudel, 1 979, e specially vol. 3; Chan and the bizarre situation in which the last inscription is believed
dler, 1 977). Here again, too much should not be on more than anything else. Money per se is certainly not the
ISUaJl,rntllon of per se; what should really be ,,11"0" """ " standard looked for by Marx and other economists. This qualifica-
i s the cascade of mobile inscriptions that end up in an account , tion should be to centers of and to the
which is, literally, the only thing that counts. Exactly as with any ity of written traces which rapid translation between one
scientific inscription, in case of doubt new accountant prefers medium and another possible.
60 61

Many efforts have been made to link the history of with everyday a n d scientific modes of thought ( 1 967) ; or Bachelard's many
the history of capital ism, and many have been made to "coupures epistemo!ogiques" that divide science from common sense,
from intuition, or from its own past ( 1 934, 1 967); or even Horton's c areful
scribe the scientist as a capitalist. Al l these (including
d istinction between monster acceptance and monster avoidance ( 1977) or
mine-Latour and Woolgar, 1979, chap. 5; Latour, 1 984a) were
primary theories and secondary theories ( 1 982).
doomed from the start, they took for granted a division be- 2. Goody ( 1977) points to the importance of practical tasks in handling graph
tween mental and material an artifact of our ignorance of ics (lists , dictionaries , inventories), and concludes his fascinating book by
i n scription s . 1 1 There is not a history of engineers, then a history saying that "if we wish to speak of a mind' these are some of the

capitalists, then one of scienti sts, then one of mathematicians, t hen instruments of its domesticatio n" (p. 182). Cole and Scribner ( 1974) shift
the focu s from intellectual tasks to schooling practice ; the ability t o draw
one of economists. Rather, there is a single history of these centers
:SyllUl!!:l:Sll.l is taken out of the mind and put into the manipulation of dia
of calculation. It is not only they look exclusively at maps, grams on paper. Hutchins ( 1 980) does the opposite in transforming the
account books, drawings, legal texts, and files, that cartographers, "illogical" reasoning ofthe Trobriand islanders into a quite straightforward
jurists, civil servants get the edge on all logic simply by adding to it the land use systems that give meaning to
the others. It is because all these inscriptions can be superimposed, hitherto abrupt shifts in continuity. Eisenstein switches the enquiry from
mental states and the philosophic al tradition to the power of print ( 1 979).
reshuffled , recombined , and summarized , and that totally new
Perret-Cler mont ( 1 979), at first one of students, focuses her atten
nomena emerge, hidden from the other people from whom all these
tion on the social context of the many test situations. She shows how
inscriptions have exacted . " non-conserving" kids become conserving in a matter of minutes simply
More precisely we should able to explai n , with the concept because other variables (social or pictoral) are taken into account. Lave
and empirical knowledge of these centers of calculation, how i nsig has explored in pioneering studies how mathematical skills may be totally
nificant modified depending o n whether or not you let people use paper and
working only with papers and signs become the
(Lave, 1986, 1988; Lave, Murtaugh and De La Rocha, 1 983). Ferguson has
most powerful of all . Papers and signs are incredibly weak and frag-
tried to relate engineering imagination to the abilities to draw pictures ac
cording to perspective rules and codes of shades and colors ( 1 977): " I t has
This i s why explaining anything with them so
at first. La Perouse's map is not the Pacifi c , any more than Watt ' s been nonverbal thinking by and large that has fixed the outlines and filled
drawings and patents are t h e engines, o r t h e bankers' in the details of our material surroundings . . . . Pyramids, and

rates are the economies, or the theorems of topology are "the real rockets exist not because of geometry, theory of structures or thermody
namics, but because they were first a picture--l iterally a vision-i n the
worl d . " This is precisely the paradox. working on papers alone,
minds of those who built them" (p. 835) (See also Ferguson, 1985). These
on inscriptions that are immen sely less than the things
are some of the studies that put the deflating strategy I try to review here
which they are extracted, it i s still possible to dominate al l things into practice.
and all people. What i s all other becomes 3. A fact is harder or softer as a function of what happens to it in other hands
the most significant, the only significant aspect of reality. The later on. Each of u s acts as a multi-conduc tor for the many claims that we
weakest, by manipulating inscriptions of all sorts obsessively and come across: we may be uninterested, or ignore them, or be i nterested but
modify them and turn them into entirely different. Sometimes
exclusively, become the This is the view of power we
indeed we act as conductor and pass the claim along without further mod
at by fol lowing this theme of visualization and cognition in all its ification. (For this see Latour and Wooigar, 1 979; Latour, 1 984b.)
consequ ences. If y ou want to understand what draws things to 4 . "Science and have advanced in more than direct ratio to the
gether, then l ook at what draws things together. ability of men to contrive methods by which the phenomena which other
wise could be known only through the senses of touch, taste and
smel l , have been brought within the range of visual recognition and mea
surements and then become subject to that logical symbolization without
which rational thought and analysis are impossible" (lvins, 1973, 13).
5 . "The most marked characteristics of European pictorial representatio n
l . For instance, Levi-Strauss' divide between bricoleur and or be- since the fourteenth century, have been on the one hand its steadily in
tween hot and cold societies ( 1 962) ; or Garfinkel's distinctions between creasing naturalism and on the other its purely schematic and logical ex-
62 63

tension. I t is submitted that both are due in largest part t o the developme n t theory or from one island to the map, you d o not go from concrete t

and of methods which have provided symbols, ID m empirical to t heoretical, you go from one place that domi
abstrac t , from
for representation of visual awareness and a grammar of nates no one, to another place that dominates all the others. If you grasp
which made i t possible t o establish logical relations not cruy thermod ynamics you grasp all (past , present and future-see Die
with i n the system of symbols but between that system and the forms and sel). The question about theories is: who controls whom and on :v hat scale.
locations of the objects that it symbolizes" (lvins, 1 973,
1 3 . A nice a contrario proof i s provided by Edgerton's study of Ch mese tech
6. " Northern artists characteristically sought to represent by transforming nical d rawings ( 1 980). He claims that Chinese artists have no interest in
the extent of vision onto their smal l , flat working surface . . . . It is the the figures or, more exactly, that they take figures not inSide. the perspec
capacity of the picture surface to contain such a semblance of the world pre
tive space on which an engineer can work and make calculatlon S and
an aggregate of views-that characterizes many i n the North" . between parts of
visions, but as illustrations. In consequen ce , all the hnks
(Alpers, 1 983, 5 1). the machines become decoration s (a complex part of the pump becomes ,
7. The proof that the movement comes first, for lies in the fact for instance, waves on a pond after a few copie s !). No one would say that
that it entails exactly the opposite effects on the The accuracy Chinese are unable to abstract. but it would not be absurd to say that
of the medium reveals more and more inaccuracies in the message, which do not put their full confidenc e into writing and imaging.
is The of Eisenstein's construction resides in the 1 4 . In a beautiful article Carlo Ginzburg of a " paradigm of the trace"
to designate this peculiar obsession of our c ulture t ht he traces-pr
way it obtains two opposite consequences from the same cause: science e
and technology accelerates; the Gospel becomes doubtful (Latour. 1 983). cisely !-from Greek medicine, to Conan Doyle's detectl ve story, t hrogh
8. For instance, Mukerji portrays a geographer who hates the new geograp h y Freud's interes t in lapsus and the detection of art forgenes ( 1 980). Falhng
books b u t has to c r y his hate in print: " Ironically, Davis took his be back , however. on a classical prejudice. G i nzburg puts physics and hard
cause he did not trust information to be a s complete as oral ac sciences aside from such a paradigm because, he contends. they do not
counts of experiences; but he decided to make the voyage after rely on traces but on abstract, u niversal phenomen a!
Dutch books on geography and produced from his travel another geograph 1 5. lvins explains, for instance, that most Greek parallels in geoetry do not
ical/navigational text" (Mukerji. 1 983, 1 14). meet because they are touched with the hands. whereas Renaissan ce par
9. This i s why I do not include i n the discussion the literature on the allels do meet since they are only seen on paper Jean Lave, i n
neurology of vision or on the psychology of perception (see for i n stance h e r studies of California n grocery shoppers, shows that people confronted
1 98 1 ; de Mey, 1 982). These disciplines, however important, make with a difficulty in their computati on rarely stick to t he paper and never
put their confidence i n what is written (Lave et al . , 1 983). To do
so much use of the very process I wish to study that they are as blind as so no
the others to an ethnograph y of the crafts and tricks of the visualizatioll_ matter how absurd the consequen ces requires still another set of peculiar
1 0. " U n 'pouvoir d 'ecriture' se constitute comme une piece essentielle dans circumstan ces related to laboratory settings, even if these are as
les rouages de la Sur bien d e s points, i l s e modele sur les mil th ton says ( 1 986) "flat laboratorie s . " In one of his twelve or so origins of
odes traditionnelles d e l a documentation administrative mais avec des geometry Serres argues that having invented the alphabet and thus broken
techniques e t des innovations (Foucault . 1975. any connection between written shapes and the t he Greeks had
1 9 1 ). to cope with pictorial representa tion. He argues that what we came to call
1 1 . These simple shifts are often transformed philosophers into complete formalism is an alphabetic text trying to describe visual
ruptures from common sense, into "coupure s epistemologiques" as i n ce q ue ceUe dans la pratique? Non point dans les 'idees' .
Bachelard. I t is n o t because o f the empiricists' naIvete t h a t o n e has t o fall I
suppose mais dans J'activite qui la pose. E l est d 'abord un rt .du essm.
back on the power of theories to make sense of data. The focus on Elle est ensuite u n Jangage parle du dessm trace que celul-cl SOIl prs-
tions and manipulation of traces is exactly midway between empiricis m ent ou absent" (Serres. 1 980, 1 76).

and Bachelard's argument on the power of t heories. 1 6. The link between technical thinking and technical drawing is so .close
1 2. A nice is that of Carnot's thermodynamics studied by Redondi scholars establish it even u nwillingly . For instance, Bertrand Gllle, when
( 1 980). Carnot's know-how is not about building a machine but rather a aC1COImtmg for the creation of a new "systeme in Alexandria
This diagram is drawn in such a way that it allows one to move to say that it is the availabi lity of
during the Hellenisti c period, i s obliged
from one engine to any other, and indeed to nonexistent simply a good library and the gathering of a collection of scale models of II. the
drawn on paper. Real t hree-dimensional steam are interesting but machines previously invented , that transformed " mere practice mto
techno-logy ( i 980). What makes the "systeme technique " a system is
localized and cumbersome. Thermodynamics is to them what La Perouse's the
map is to the islands of the Pacific. When going from one to the of all the former technical achieveme nts which are all taken
synoptic vision
T Pre ss.
bri d e MA '' Th e Ml
out of their isolation . This link is most clearly visible when an inscription Block , N . , E d . ( 1 98 1 ) . Ima gery' C m ; ':n i ll ge yr Londo n : Rou tled ge.
owledge a n d Oc a
device is hooked up to a working machine to make it comprehensible (Hills Blo or, D. ( 1 976 ). Kn .
ia I Th ory of Kn owledge. Lo ndo n:
D . ( 198 3). Wit tge nstem an d t h e soc
and 1 98 1 ; Constant, 1983). A nice rendering of the paper world Bloor,
Macmilla n . No rth gat e
necessary to make a computer real is to be found in Kidder ( 1 98 1 ) . " The
ry O.r J Engl'ne ering
Drawing. Lo ndo n:
2). A Histo
B ooker, P . J. ( 198
soul of the machine" is a pile of paper. . . .
1 7 . The direction we go 10 by asking such questions is quite different from Publis h ing Co. . Genve: Droz.
. d' une T'I. 'on e de l a Pratique
"", .
) Paris: Arm and
those of either the sociology of science or the cognitive sciences (espe Bo urd leu , P. ( 1972 e.

. . " . pitalism
n M aten'elie et Ca

1 979 ). CIV Ilis atio

cially when both try to merge as in de Mey's synthesis ( 1 982. Two Bra ude l, L. (
recent attempts have been made to relate the fine structure of cognitive Coli n. via thn . " In
scr ew ing the big Le
Lat our. ( 1 98 1 ) . " Un
abilities 10 social structure. The first one uses Hesse's networks and Canon , M. and B . . an integr alio n of Micro and
cIco ureI (Ed s ' ) , Toward
Kuhn's paradigms (Barnes, 1 982), the second Wittgenstein's "language K . Kn orr and A. .
. Lo ndo n' Routledge.
games" (Bloor, 1983). These aUempts are interesting but Ihey still try to Macro SOCIOIogles. ativ e Sci ent om etrics:
S tud
ERIP, d s ( 1 986) Qualit

a d A.
answer a q uestion which the present review wishes to reject: how cognitive CaUo n , M . , J . Law, ;ndo .' Mac millan .

of S cence .
ies i n the DynamiC Ha rvard U niv ers ity
abilities are related to our societies. The question (and thus the various .
VISib le Han . C am bri dge , M A :
A. ( 1 9 77). The
answers) accept the idea that the stuff society is made of is somehow dif Ch andle r,
ferent from that of our sciences, our images, and our information. The Pre ss. cro leels , " In
" ion of micro and ma
. N oe s 0n the i n teg rat
phenomenon I wish to focus on is slightly different from those revealed b y C1cou rel , A . ( 1 98 1 ) . ard an Int egr atio n of Micro a n d
orr and A . Clc oure I ( E ds . ) Tow
Barnes a n d B loor, We are dealing w i t h a single ethnographic puzzle: some K Kn w

Lo ndo n: Routledge
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rd um verS llY pres
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al Bu-
R . ' ( 196 6) . Me asu re for
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a hm gton ' D . C . . h
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d T ough t . A Ps
y chological lntro -
t e an
ibn er ( 1 974 ). Cu tur
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duction . New York. tab ility : SCI-

that the mobilizing of allies and, in general, the transformation of weak . and tec hnological tes

E. W. ( 198 3). " Sc ien tific t h ry Tec hnology

into strong associations, is what "social" also means. Why look for far
fetched relations when technical details of science talk directly of i nvari
Co nst ant ,
enc e, dyn am om ete

r and wa ter tu me
in the 19t h cen tur y."

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