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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Mike Fortun - Ethnographic studies of ongoing scientific projects

Mike Fortun is an associate professor in the Department of Science and Technology Studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Insititute. His most recent work is Promising Genomics: Iceland and deCODE Genetics in a World of Speculation (University of California Press 2008), an ethnographic account of deCODE Genetics in Iceland. In this interview, he discusses his work doing oral history/anthropology of ongoing scientific enterprises.

Fortun is concerned to convey the messiness and “humanity” of science, in a public climate in which scientific inquiry is often held up as a model of fairly simple, clear rational procedure. He also wants to capture the kind of information about scientific advances that is often lost in an era in which communication by cell phone and email have supplanted scientific correspondence.

Fortun gives a very interesting and surprising account of the interview process, presenting as intuitive and exploratory and messy, like the scientific enterprises he is trying to understand.

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