[Air-L] Cryptically titled book

Christine Hine Christine.Hine at btinternet.com
Wed Jan 14 08:41:56 PST 2009

I am mailing with a piece of fairly shameless self-promotion - and a
question attached. This is the first anniversary of publication of a book
which I now totally wish I had called something different and more obvious.
I think the book has relevance to some of the AOIR community, and I'm hoping
some list members might be able to help me with a question that it leaves me

The book is Systematics as Cyberscience: Computers, Change and Continuity in
Science (MIT Press, 2008, by Christine Hine
)http://mitpress.mit.edu/catalog/item/default.asp?ttype=2&tid=11472 .

The book happens to be about biologists, but my main aim was to try and look
at the specificity of the Internet to particular circumstances of use, and
this domain of science is one site to work through that more general
argument. I wanted to see how a particular set of people were negotiating a
prevailing political climate of belief in the transformative beneficial
capacities of new technologies. To do this study I looked at the development
of the policy context, and also tried to engage with the embedding of the
Internet into an existing set of communication practices, an institutional
structure and a material culture. It's this last bit that leaves me with my
current question as I'm working with some of the data that didn't make it
into the book. Can anyone suggest to me other recent studies which look at
shifts from working with material objects to working with their virtual
counterparts? I'm thinking, for example, of interviews I have with someone
studying classification of fish, who now often turns to an image which
preserves living colour, rather than a preserved specimen which is the
"actual" fish, but is now often deemed less satisfactory than the image. I
have interviews with people who work with pressed plant specimens,
negotiating whether to request specimens on loan or work with images online
- and sometimes yearning for the days when they were given good quality
colour prints to work with rather than being expected to work off the
screen. I'm interested in the transformation of practices of working with
material objects as virtual versions come along, and the accompanying
respecification of the objects themselves. Can anyone think of parallel
examples in other fields of working practice - and recommend published
studies that describe them? Maybe there are examples from medicine -
anywhere else? Any studies describing the working practices of artists in
digital media?

Best wishes,


Christine Hine
Department of Sociology
University of Surrey
Guildford, Surrey, GU2 7XH, UK
c.hine at surrey.ac.uk

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