Is ‘Representation’ a Folk Term? Some Thoughts on a Theme in Science Studies

Hammersley, Martyn (2022). Is ‘Representation’ a Folk Term? Some Thoughts on a Theme in Science Studies. Philosophy of the Social Sciences, 52(3) pp. 132–149.



An influential strand within Science and Technology Studies (STS) rejects the idea that science produces representations referring to objects or processes that exist independently of it. This radical ‘turn’ has been framed as ‘constructionist’, ‘nominalist’, and more recently as ‘ontological’. Its central argument is that science constructs or enacts rather than represents. Since most practitioners of science believe that it involves representation, an implication of the radical turn must be that ‘representation’ is a folk concept; perhaps even a myth or an ideology. This paper explores this anti-representationalism and its implications for the relationship between STS and mainstream social science, in part through drawing parallels with ethnomethodology. 1

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