Embedding Digital Infrastructure in Epistemic Culture

Embedding Digital Infrastructure in Epistemic Culture

Martina Merz (University of Lausanne & EMPA St. Grallen, Switzerland)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-717-1.ch005


This chapter introduces the notion of a “disunity of e-science:” It posits that different epistemic cultures privilege different forms of digital infrastructure, integrate them into their practice in historically and culturally specific ways and assign to them distinct functions, meanings and interpretations. Based on an ethnographic case study of theoretical particle physics, the chapter demonstrates how digital infrastructures are firmly embedded and deeply entwined with epistemic practice and culture. The case is made, firstly, by investigating the practice of distributed collaboration and how it is sustained by e-mail-based interaction and, secondly, by analyzing the practice of preprinting and how an electronic preprint archive has turned into a central element of the scientists’ culture. In its conclusion, the chapter cautions against techno-deterministic views of how digital infrastructure might align sciences and turn them into a homogenized “e-science.”

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