The new approaches taken in Leviathan and the Air-Pump have been enormously influential on historical studies of science. Shapin and Schaffer found a moment of scientific revolution and showed how key scientific givens--facts, interpretations, experiment, truth--were fundamental to a new political order. Shapin and Schaffer were also innovative in their ethnographic approach. Attempting to understand the work habits, rituals, and social structures of a remote, unfamiliar group, they argued that politics were tied up in what scientists did, rather than what they said. Steven Shapin and Simon Schaffer use the confrontation between Hobbes and Boyle as a way of understanding what was at stake in the early history of scientific experimentation. They describe the protagonists' divergent views of natural knowledge, and situate the Hobbes-Boyle disputes within contemporary debates over the role of intellectuals in public life and the problems of social order and assent in Restoration England. In a new introduction, the authors describe how science and its social context were understood when this book was first published, and how the study of the history of science has changed since then.
Following a presentation of their detailed categorization of actions, the authors apply their approach to a broad range of human-machine interactions and to learning. Key examples include bicycle riding and the many varieties of writing machines. They also show how their theory can be used to explain the operation of organizations such as restaurants and armies. Finally, they look at a historical case -- the technological development of the air pump -- applying their categorization of actions to the processes of mechanization and automation. Automation, they argue, can occur only where what we want to bring about can be brought about through mimeomorphic action.
Pinch was there at the creation -- as coauthor of the groundbreaking 1984 article that launched SCOT -- and has remained active through subsequent developments. Engaging and conversational, Pinch charts SCOT's important milestones. The book describes how Pinch and Wiebe Bijker adapted the "empirical program of relativism," developed by the Bath School to study the social construction of scientific facts, to apply to the social construction of artifacts. Entanglements addresses five issues in depth: relevant social groups, and SCOT's focus on groups of users; the intertwining of social representation and practices; the importance of tacit knowledge in SCOT's approach to the nonrepresentational; the controversy over nonhuman agency; and the political implications of SCOT.