The mutant science scholars speak
August 8, 2007
Thanks to Socializing Finance for offering us some space on their blog to reflect on our experiences as organizers of the ‘Does STS Mean Business?’ workshop at the Academy of Management.
Elena: For me, this session was all about providing a forum at the Academy for celebrating and reflecting on the engagement between management studies and science and technology studies…
Catelijne: …and this was a particularly good moment to do it. Some management scholars have been looking to the STS literature for concepts and theoretical ideas for a while, but there seems to be a critical mass emerging now: it’s a hot topic.
Elena: I think the session confirmed that. It managed to inspire a mix of very well-established scholars and younger researchers, and most participants gathered again in the evening to carry on conversations over dinner.
Catelijne: So what do you see as the most interesting issues that emerged?
Elena: I was interested in the dynamics of bringing the workshop into the context of the Academy. You remember how for this occasion we re-framed the questions that were previously asked in two Oxford workshops in terms of ‘theoretical innovation’. During and after the workshop, I noted the event being actively reinterpreted, by participants and by ourselves. If ever this workshop was conceived as something as exciting as an invasion of the mutant science scholars, it did become a “conventional” AoM session. I mean, it was made to fit with commonly applied understandings of what’s going on in the Academy – in terms of “the kind of knowledge produced”, “what we’ve learnt” and “how to proceed from here”! Do you share my sense of surprise?
Catelijne: Conventional? I don’t agree… Although, similar discussions were held in other sessions…
Elena: … that’s what I’m saying! In a very interesting symposium on Monday, Woody Powell and Steve Barley were proposing ethnomethodologically-informed microsociology – an approach strongly affiliated with particular strands of STS – as a refreshing impulse for institutional theory.
Catelijne: I went to a great workshop on strategy-as-practice on Sunday. One of the papers discussed there was an ethnomethodologically-inspired ethnography by Dalvir Samra-Fredericks, demonstrating the viability of this approach for the strategy-as-practice area. But to me there is a difference with our session. We did not want to stop at presenting “STS” as a theoretical offer to other disciplines, an offer of which the merits need to be argued. We were aiming for a more symmetrical approach.
Elena: Are you referring to our intention to question the dynamics of theoretical innovation, translations and transitions?
Catelijne: Precisely, and this can be done on different levels. For example, the session confirmed for me the importance of challenging assumptions both ways round. STS is quite good for challenging assumptions: it’s like a toolkit for unpacking stability, truth and essence in their various guises. But I think that work in organization and management studies can be sensitizing in a similar way and provide STS scholars with ways to unpack their use of the notions of ‘strategy’, ‘marketing’, ‘negotiation’ and so on.
Elena: This links to the interest in controversies also remarked upon by Daniel. My sense is that some controversies that are hidden in STS are unpacked in management studies, and the other way around. Perhaps we should write another posting about controversy some time…?