Aircraft Stories

Decentering the Object in Technoscience

Aircraft Stories

Science and Cultural Theory

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Book Pages: 264 Illustrations: 23 illustrations Published: April 2002

Author: John Law

Science and Technology Studies > History of Technology, Sociology > Social Theory, Theory and Philosophy > Critical Theory

In Aircraft Stories noted sociologist of technoscience John Law tells “stories” about a British attempt to build a military aircraft—the TSR2. The intertwining of these stories demonstrates the ways in which particular technological projects can be understood in a world of complex contexts.
Law works to upset the binary between the modernist concept of knowledge, subjects, and objects as having centered and concrete essences and the postmodernist notion that all is fragmented and centerless. The structure and content of Aircraft Stories reflect Law’s contention that knowledge, subjects, and—particularly— objects are “fractionally coherent”: that is, they are drawn together without necessarily being centered. In studying the process of this particular aircraft’s design, construction, and eventual cancellation, Law develops a range of metaphors to describe both its fractional character and the ways its various aspects interact with each other. Offering numerous insights into the way we theorize the working of systems, he explores the overlaps between singularity and multiplicity and reveals rich new meaning in such concepts as oscillation, interference, fractionality, and rhizomatic networks.
The methodology and insights of Aircraft Stories will be invaluable to students in science and technology studies and will engage others who are interested in the ways that contemporary paradigms have limited our ability to see objects in their true complexity.


"[Law] writes well, sometimes almost poetically, with few of the tortured sentences of much cultural theory. Many readers may disagree with his theses, but few will fail to be stimulated by this brave, challenging book." — Donald MacKenzie , American Journal of Sociology

"Law's illustration of the singularity/multiplicity of artifacts (especially in the context of the many strands of social theory on which he draws) lends depth to any understanding of the social character of technology. His readers are invited, I think, to pull some of the more valuable jottings from his pinboard and interweave them in their own montages." — Cyrus C. M. Mody , Contemporary Sociology

"Offering numerous insights into the way we theorize the workings of systems, [Law] explores the overlaps between singularity and multiplicity and reveals rich new meaning in such concepts as oscillation, interference, fractionality, and rhizomatic networks." — Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society

“Through this lively text, John Law guides us on a tour of the TSR2 that will be a rich resource for anyone interested in the question of how new artifacts come into being. Writers, readers, engineers, and aircraft are inseparable components of the project, which involves simultaneously achieving the singularities and recovering the multiplicities of stories and things. Crafting together a complex architecture of subject/object relations, Aircraft Stories offers a prototype for a new form of technoscience storytelling.” — Lucy Suchman, author of Plans and Situated Actions: The Problem of Human-Machine Communication

“What is a military aircraft? John Law shows in his beautiful analysis that it is a constant oscillation between multiplicity and singularity. It (sometimes) flies, it (possibly) drops nuclear bombs, it (certainly) reproduces a very conservative social order, it interpellates and entices young men, and yet it still remains a military aircraft. John Law invents what could be a monadology in which there is no longer preestablished harmony.” — Michel Callon, CSI Ecole des mines de Paris


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Price: $26.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

John Law is Professor of Sociology and Director of the Centre for Science Studies at Lancaster University in England. He is the author and editor of many books and articles, including Organizing Modernity and Shaping Technology/Building Society: Studies in Sociotechnical Change.

Table of Contents Back to Top

1. Introduction

2. Objects

3. Subjects

4. Cultures

5. Heterogeneities

6. Aesthetics

7. Decisions

8. Arborescences

9. Pinboards



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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2824-7 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2812-4
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