October 11-13, Montreal, Canada

Doubletree Plaza Hotel Montreal

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Call for Papers

Ways of Knowing

The February 1 deadline for submitting papers and sessions has passed. Authors and organizers will receive notification about the status of their submissions shortly.

The theme for the conference is ways of knowing. By this we mean several things: implicitly, that there are many ways of knowing any particular object, process, or event; that some of these ways of knowing have historically been more valued than others; and that processes of adjudicating ways of knowing have usually been neither nice nor neutral. So we are interested in processes of valuation (from the language of debates to acts of censorship) that result in one way of knowing as the right one or the natural one. We are interested in how people, groups, or cultures hold more than one way of knowing, and whether this is stable, durable, or problematic. When different ways of knowing are triangulated, how is this actually done in practice? What is lost and what is gained in the triangulation process?

We are interested in how certain ways of knowing are deemed to be non-scientific, (for example, magic, divination, astrology, etc). Several other interesting areas spring from this mixture of questions: historically, what is kept, or what is ignored, in studies of knowledges and paradigm shifts? (Including here questions of collective memory and collective forgetting.) How do new regimes of record keeping, such as the electronic patient record or the full text data base, affect what is remembered and what is forgotten? (This may be true across a large numbers of fields.) All sorts of questions about translation arise in discussing these issues – Who chooses what is to be translated? Who does the translation? Does the quality of the translation impact the nature of knowledge, and if so, how? In Howard Becker’s famous concept, hierarchy of credibility, he claims that, for a well-socialized member of a hierarchical organization or institution, information coming from the top is de facto more credible than that coming from the bottom. So, a bank president, regardless of what she says, is more credible than a temporary janitor. However, within science studies, and following many sorts of principles of symmetry, we do not take members’ hierarchies for granted, especially as questions of voice and position are precisely the matters under analysis.

Given that our conference will be in Quebec, one of the sites where language (as a marker) of difference was bitterly disputed, we must examine the idea that language carries powerful politics. In some cases, as with Aboriginal children, the attempt to suppress a language is linked with the destruction of culture and even with genocide. Finally, there are different ways of knowing that are formed by gestures, by ways of pronouncing words, or by how names are heard and understood. Sometimes ways of knowing are different with respect to quantitative vs. qualitative; visual vs. textual, or statistical vs. enumerative. These only suggest the ways knowledges may frame findings, thus mirroring a final finding.

A final word about themes: these are posed in order to help frame related research. As always, themes are meant to suggest and encourage, not provide an iron cage. So, the Program Committee welcomes work that is outside the sketches drawn here; submissions are welcome from any of the variety of areas normally addressed by 4S (or even those not normally addressed, but which need to be).

Program Practices

Given the growing size of the 4S conferences and the desire to be as inclusive as possible, the program committee will need to make full use of the available time slots. Therefore, individuals may be listed for a paper presentation and one other activity (such as session chair or discussant but not a second paper) for a maximum of two appearances.

Session proposals should be based on the assumption of two-hour time slots with fifteen minutes per presentation. A typical session may have six papers, one discussant, and a fifteen-minute open discussion slot. Proposals for double and triple sessions on a single topic may receive a request to consolidate the topic into one panel or to break the multiple sessions into different topics. The program committee may need to assign additional papers to sessions in order to accommodate the number of submissions and reduce the rejection rate.

Panels generally consist of research presentations, but alternative formats are available:

  • Working Sessions Participants in Working Sessions will post their papers or presentations prior to the meeting, allowing for more discussion during the sessions. If you have more questions about working sessions, please contact Sergio Sismondo.
  • New Media sessions involve screening of video and other media.
  • Poster sessions will be an open event on Thursday evening.
  • A limited number of roundtable proposals may be accepted for the lunch-time slot. Generally, roundtables are on institutional topics such as mentoring and career development.

The program chair is David Hess. Please address all questions through the program chair assistant, Anne Borrero.