Where are the missing masses, sociology of a few mundane artefacts

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In Shaping Technology-Building Society. Studies in Sociotechnical Change, Wiebe Bijker and John Law (editors), MIT Press, Cambridge Mass. pp. 225-259, 1992 [new expanded and revised version of article (35). Republication in the reader Johnson, Deborah J., and Jameson M Wetmore, eds. Technology and Society, Building Our Sociotechnical Future. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 2008 pp. 151-180]


According to some physicists there is not enough mass in the universe to balance the accounts that cosmologists make of it. They are looking everywhere for the “missing mass” that could add up to the nice expected total. It is the same with sociologists. They are constantly looking, somewhat desperately, for social links sturdy enough to tie all of us together or for moral laws that would be inflexible enough to make us behave properly. When adding up social ties it does not balance. Soft human and weak moralities are all sociologists can get. The society they try to recompose with bodies and norms constantly crumble. Something is missing. Something that should be strongly social and highly moral. Where can they find it? Everywhere, but they too often refuse to see it in spite of much new work in the sociology of artefacts . I expect sociologists to be much more fortunate than cosmologists since they soon will discover their missing mass. To balance our accounts of society we simply have to turn our attention away from humans and look at non-humans. Here they are, the hidden and despised social masses who make up our morality. They knock at the door of sociology requesting a place in the accounts of society as stubbornly as the humans masses did in the 19th century. I will start my enquiry by following a little script written by anonymous hands. On a freezing day this February, posted on the door of La Halle aux Cuirs at La Villette, in Paris, where Robert Fox's group is trying to convince the French to take up social history of science, could be seen, a small hand-written notice: “The groom is on strike, for God's sake, keep the door closed” (groom is Frenglish for an automated door-closer or butler).


1992: Italien / Italian
« Dove sono le masse mancanti ? Sociologia di alcuni oggetti di uso comune », translated by Michela Nacci, Vol.XIII, n°2, pp.221-255 [Republished in a volume edited by Alvize Mattozzi, Il senso degli oggetti tecnici, Melteme, Roma, 2006 pp. 81-124]

1991: Néerlandais / Dutch
« Na de social e wending het roer nogmaals om” in Kennis und Methode, Vol.XV, N°1, pp.11-37 [Translation of Article (48)]

2004: Russe / Russian
« Где недостающая масса? Социология одной двери » in Neprikosnovennyj zappas ». Debaty o politike i kul'ture no. 2(34)/2004

2006: Traduction française partielle / Partial French translation
« Le groom est en grève. Pour l’amour de Dieu, fermez la porte » in La clef de Berlin et autres leçons d’un amateur de sciences, pp. 56-76 [see book(VI)]

2006: Allemand / German
Translation of the semiotic annex in Andréa Belliger & David J. Krieger ANThology - Ein Einführendes Handbuch zur Akteur-Netzwerk-Theorie, Bielefeld, Transcript Verlag, 2006 pp.399-406 [Republication of the German translation « Automatischer Türschließer » in Arch+ Zeitschrift für Architektur und Städtebau, März 2009, n° 191-192, pp. 29-33 (reprise de la traduction de Gustav Roßler in Berliner Schlüssel)]