A Little Academic History

So I was over at the website for the Society for the Social Study of Science to see if this year’s program had been posted yet (travel arrangements, you know — Westjet has some direct flights to Vancouver) and stumbled across their historical programs, which includes the program from the first meeting at Cornell University.

Looking it over is an interesting execise. For one thing, it’s interesting to see which names are there and which aren’t and where they are. Bruno Latour and Steve Woolgar are presenting methodology papers. Karen Knorr (now Knorr-Cetina) and Derek de Solla Price are all over the program. And the keynote? Robert K. Merton. New paradigm, meet the old paradigm.

There are other things I think about with conferences from the 70s, even though they weren’t so long ago. After, all the practices were different then. How much did it cost participants to get there and who paid? How many events were they likely to attend in a year? How were participants chosen — through social networks (1), through whatever the organizers were reading at the time, or by some other method? Was the conference organized by mail or telephone? Or at another conference? Did that different make a difference? How did the participants write their papers? Did that make a difference?


(1) Even then, I am struck by the degree to which Science Studies was, from its beginnings, a field located in relatively elite schools (for instance, in comparison with the emergence of cultural studies).