David Ribes

Download Full EssayMateriality Methodology, and Some Tricks of the Trade in the Study of Data and Specimens

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We are witnessing a resurgence of interest in the study of materials, things and objects within social, organizational and humanistic scholarship.  For STS, however, materiality is not altogether new, but rather a novel inflection to long-standing theoretical and methodological topics that investigators in the field have been tackling for decades. Inspired by methodological approaches in four traditions – ethnomethodology, actor-network theory, anthropology of classifications, and historical ontology and epistemology – this chapter offers handholds for the empirical examination of materiality. Drawing a single ‘trick of the trade’ from each tradition, this chapter explores the situated, emergent, and speculative trajectories of data and specimens over time, and more generally offers these tricks for the examination of materiality in STS investigations.