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01-06-2015 | Forum | Issue 2/2015

Cultural Studies of Science Education 2/2015

Questioning collectives and agencies: a commentary on curricular choices

Journal:
Cultural Studies of Science Education > Issue 2/2015
Author:
Jenny Arnold
Important notes
This review essay addresses issues raised in Volny Fages and Virginia Albe’s paper entitled: Social issues in nanoscience and nanotechnology Master’s degrees: the socio-political stakes of curricular choices.
Lead editor: L. Carter

Abstract

This commentary explores theoretical alternatives for viewing the problem identified by Volny Fages and Virginie Albe in their article entitled Social issues in nanoscience and nanotechnology Master’s degrees: The socio-political stakes of curricular choices. An approach to social research is suggested that would render visible the associations maintaining the states of affairs depicted by Fages and Albe. In their research, Fages and Albe identified conceptions of the relationship between scientific endeavour and social concerns to be at the root of “choices” made by coordinators of Masters programs in nano science and technology in universities selected for their study. Albe and Fages, insiders in the sense that they take responsibility for a particular program within one such course, convey their belief that, “future scientists need to identify, accept and take on board the social responsibilities linked to their own practice of science, and to work collectively for a more democratic division of power regarding socio-technical choices”. However, many of the Master’s programs reviewed in their research were reported as providing limited opportunities for their students to critically engage with social aspects of scientific work. This commentary questions the notion of “choices” used in their research and proposes Actor-Network Theory as a theoretical framework open to the existence of various human and non-human agencies at work when a “choice” is made. The aim of the commentary is to further Fages and Albe’s agenda by calling for understanding and ultimately a reassembling of the state of affairs in a way that would be acceptable to those invested.

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