Signing for Reflexivity: Constructionist Rhetorics and Its Reflexive Critique in Science and Technology Studies


  • Tarja Knuuttila University of Helsinki



reflexivity, Science and Technology Studies, representation, constructionism, relativism


I argue that reflexivity should not be seen as being primarily about the relationship of scientific writing to the realities studied—as it is often understood. In trying to establish this point I examine the discussion about reflexivity in science and technology studies (STS). The STS reflexivists claimed that the relativist and constructionist STS undermined reflexively themselves by arguing that all knowledge is situated and socially constructed. In the face of this reflexive problematics they suggested that "new literary forms", which manifest the constructed nature of scientific text, should be adopted. It seems to me that this program of inscribing reflexivity was semiotically misguided, which contributed to its demise. On the other hand, I argue that the basic reflexive point about the paradoxicality of making general claims about the local and contingent "nature" of knowledge is sound and that it should have deserved more attention in the constructionist rhetoric. The second part of my paper draws some more general methodological points from the STS case presented. I am especially interested in the performative aspects of signing for methodological novelties and ask whether it is sensible to talk about "reflexive methodology". URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0203152


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Author Biography

Tarja Knuuttila, University of Helsinki

Tarja KNUUTTILA (MBA and Master of Social Sciences) is a PhD candidate at the University of Helsinki doing her PhD thesis in the Department of Philosophy about models and scientific representation. Her epistemologically oriented work on the question of the relation between reality and representation draws insights from science and technology studies, semiotics and activity theory. She is currently working as a researcher in the Center for Activity Theory and Developmental Work Research in an interdisciplinary research group studying research work and technological innovations.




How to Cite

Knuuttila, T. (2002). Signing for Reflexivity: Constructionist Rhetorics and Its Reflexive Critique in Science and Technology Studies. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 3(3).