Microsociology in STS


An important category of study in STS is “microsociology,” in which researchers examine a relatively small group of individuals at a particular local. Such ethnographic investigations are typical of anthropology, but sociologists sometimes feel the need for the “micro” qualifier. It is also referred to as “Laboratory Studies” since that is (so far) the primary local.





Ethnomethodology 1950s – Harold Garfinkle – methods of “everyday life” in the production of social structure. Emphasis on “indexicality,” the ways that social meaning is interpreted by local context rather than universal laws. Used by Lynch in STS. See http://www.hewett.norfolk.sch.uk/curric/soc/ethno/intro.htm for more info.


Symbolic Interactionism: founder in 1950s is George H Mead. Origins include Semiotics, combined with “Chicago School” of Robert Park. Emphasis on social interactions comprised of specific roles (e.g. Goffman: what questions can you ask a stranger?), and on negotiations of symbols and meaning. Symbolic Interactionism in STS is primarily present in the “social worlds” approach of Adele Clark, Joan Fujimora, SL Star. See http://web.grinnell.edu/courses/soc/s00/soc111-01/IntroTheories/Symbolic.html for more info.



Some Classics of Microsociology in STS:


Latour and Wolgar, “Laboratory Life”


Karin Knorr-Cetina, “The Manufacture of Knowledge”


Susan Leigh Star, “Ecologies of Knowledge”


Michael Lynch, “Art and Artifact in the Laboratory”