Saturday, July 20, 2013

Latour's Notebooks

In Reassembling the Social Bruno Latour claims that "tracing social connections" in effect amounts to "writing down accounts."[1] Furthermore, he finds that “good sociology has to be well written; if not the social doesn’t appear through it” (p. 124), and he goes on to claim that good sociologists should keep four different notebooks:
  1. “a log of the enquiry itself ... to document the transformation one undergoes by doing the travel” (p. 134).
  2. one for “gathering information”, structured both chronological divided into categories that can be further refined.
  3. one that is "always kept at hand" for “ad libitum writing”, i.e. for recording ideas during research.
  4. one “kept to register the effect of the written account on the actors whose world has been either deployed or unified (p. 135).
He says that he using the term "notebook ... rather metaphorically," as electronic files, films, and Web sites could also be substituted for paper notebooks (134n). The advice is meant for sociologists, but others might also benefit from thinking about the functions their notes should have. While I have no use for the fourth notebook, the other three are suggestive. I do far too little of the first.

1. Bruno Latour, Reassembling the Social, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), p. 122.

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