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Journal Article:

Author(s) :


Vaughan, Diane

Date of Publication :



Article Title :


The Role of the Organization in the Production of Techno-Scientific Knowledge

Journal Title :


Social Studies of Science

Volume ID :



Pages(s) :



Abstract :


When scientific and technical work goes on within a formal organization, what effect, if any, does the organizational setting have on the production of facts and artefacts? This question has not yet been thoroughly explored in science and technology studies. Organizations are meso-level structures: located between the macro-level contingencies and the micro-level interactions that are known to affect the interpretive work of scientific and technical experts, organizations also play an important role. To encourage discussion about the role of organizations in knowledge production processes, I first draw on organization theory to demonstrate the ironic fact that organizations, necessary to produce, coordinate and maintain complex techno-scientific systems, also have irreducible and emergent effects on the way complex information is transmitted, communicated, processed and stored. Then, to illustrate empirically how organizations affect knowledge processes in the workplace, I reconsider data on engineering decisions at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), presenting a new interpretation that focuses on the role of the organization in knowledge production. In combination, organization theory and the empirical analysis suggest that certain structures, processes and transaction forms are generic across organizational settings, having ramifications for knowledge production by technologists and scientists in a variety of knowledge sites. In conclusion, I frame this discussion within the traditions of science and technology studies, suggesting the integrative, theory-building potential of future research that takes into account formal organizations as contemporary machineries of knowing.

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