Chapter 8

Technology and Science


The term technoscience has come into vogue in the last two decades. It suggests a sort of hybrid combining of technology and science, and has been used by many of the best-known Science and Technology Studies writers ranging from Bruno Latour to Donna Haraway and others. Such a hybridization stands in contrast to an older usage which suggested not only distinct differences between science and technology, but also a clear relation of dependence of technology upon science, as in the once popular usage of “applied science” referring to most engineering in its modern sense. This usage prevailed well into the twentieth century and still exists as a title for some programs, but has increasingly been called into question.

Are we undergoing a major shift in the terms of the once master narrative which both characterized and distinguished technology and science? Paul Forman, intellectual historian and curator of Medicine and Science at the Smithsonian Institution, thinks so. In a recent special issue of History and Technology (vol. 23, 2007), he argued that intellectually there was a “primacy of science in modernity” and that this shifted to a primacy of “technology in postmodernity,” but that this shift was not recognized until recently by historians owing to their own ideology. Part of Forman’s thesis is that the watershed for the shift was roughly 1980, and with a historian’s scrupulous footnoting – 424 of them! – he shows how, in modernity, ...

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