Monday, June 26, 2006

New Month, New Book: Memory Practices in the Sciences by Geoff Bowker

Greetings book clubbers

We had our first meeting last Friday afternoon on the Terrace - it was one of those beautiful afternoons where you feel bad for all the people out there who don't live in Madison: the band was playing, the boats were sailing, the brats were grilling, the beer was flowing... Ah, if only January in Madison was as sweet.

We had an invigorating discussion of our first book The Access Principle, various open access issues (mostly focusing on institutional repositories), and library OA advocacy efforts.

Our next book will be Geoff Bowker's brand new Memory Practices in the Sciences. Here is Bowker's homepage:

Here's how Bowker describes his book:
"My recent Memory Practices in the Sciences looks at information infrstructures and storytelling in a science over the past two hundred years. It looks at geology in the 1830s, cybernetics in the 1950s and environmental sciences today - weaving together their information infrastructure and the stories that they tell about their objects."

You may remember Bowker from Bowker & Star _Sorting Things Out: Classification and Its Consequences - which hopefully someone made you read in some SLIS class.

Be warned Memory Practices is not as easy a read as Access Principle! The SLIS library has purchased a copy & put it on 3 day reserve.

The meeting date for this book is the last Friday in July.

The way we record knowledge, and the web of technical, formal, and social practices that surrounds it, inevitably affects the knowledge that we record. The ways we hold knowledge about the past -- in handwritten manuscripts, in printed books, in file folders, in databases -- shape the kind of stories we tell about that past. In this lively and erudite look at the relation of our information infrastructures to our information, Geoffrey Bowker examines how, over the past two hundred years, information technology has converged with the nature and production of scientific knowledge. His story weaves a path between the social and political work of creating an explicit, indexical memory for science -- the making of infrastructures -- and the variety of ways we continually reconfigure, lose, and regain the past.

At a time when memory is so cheap and its recording is so protean, Bowker reminds us of the centrality of what and how we choose to forget. In Memory Practices in the Sciences he looks at three "memory epochs" of the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries and their particular reconstructions/reconfigurations of scientific knowledge. The nineteenth century's central science, geology, mapped both the social and the natural world into a single time package (despite apparent discontinuities), as, in a different way, did mid-twentieth-century cybernetics; both, Bowker argues, packaged time in ways indexed by their information technologies to permit traffic between the social and natural worlds. The sciences of biodiversity today, meanwhile, "database the world" in a way that excludes certain spaces, entities, and times. We use the tools of the present to look at thepast, says Bowker; we project onto nature our modes of organizing our own affairs.

Synchronization of synchrony in the archive : geology and the 1830s
The empty archive : cybernetics and the 1960s
Databasing the world : biodiversity and the 2000s
The mnemonic deep : the importance of an unruly past
The local knowledge of a globalizing ethnos


natezilla said...

You may remember Bowker from Bowker & Star _Sorting Things Out: Classification and Its Consequences - which hopefully someone made you read in some SLIS class.

Nope, never assigned as class reading. I'm unsure if this was introduced after I snuck through 551, or if it's still not being used. Seems like it would be a good idea to see if it is being used in the curriculum in any SLIS class.

k8 said...

I never saw it or heard it mentioned in any classes, either. Even though that isn't really my area, I'll have to check it out for a skim sometime soon if it is an important core-like text.