Laboratizing and de-laboratizing the world: changing sociological concepts for places of knowledge production
AbstractHow has sociology framed places of knowledge production and what is the specific power of the laboratory for this history? This article looks in three steps at how sociology and Science and Technology Studies (STS) have historically framed the world as laboratory. First, in early sociology, the laboratory was an important metaphor to conceive of sociology as a scientific enterprise. In the 1950s, the trend reversed and with the emergence of a ‘qualitative sociology’, sociology was seen in opposition to laboratory work. With the ascent of laboratory studies, the laboratory perspective was again applied to many fields, including sociology itself. Based on a definition of a laboratory as aiming at placeless knowledge and being inconsequential this article argues that the two waves of laboratorization were metaphorical and did not really turn the world into a laboratory. Instead, two alternative concepts, those of the unilatory and the locatory, are proposed to gain a more precise understanding of some of these metaphorical uses of the term ‘laboratory’.