The “Turns”

While reading I have come across several “turns”, which I will try to briefly summarize here to remember what the key points are in each of them. The more I read about turns, the more they seem to be similar or resonate with some aspects of Kuhn’s paradigms. Doris Bachmann-Medick has written about this.

Linguistic Turn

The linguistic turn has its starting points in the rejection of logical positivism/ metaphysics/ naturalism and influential key actors (or at least are named based on their influence/ key in naming this turn) in the initial development were Bergmann, Rorty, Wittgenstein & the Vienna Circle.

In philosophy, the “linguistic turn” refers to a development mainly within the 20th century, which is accompanied by an increased turn to language, i.e. the use and meaning of linguistic utterances. For many representatives of the linguistic turn, scientific inquiry was no longer to investigate “things in themselves”, but to analyze the linguistic conditions of how things are spoken of.

As far as I understand, the ontological/epistemological assumptions of the linguistic term are the following: language is conceived neither as a medium for the representation of an extralinguistic reality nor as a medium for the expression of our inner thoughts and emotions. Rather, it constitutes a rule-bound system of meaning and action.

Therefore, following the linguistic term, a change in emphasis happened towards language in the humanities and social sciences that reflected a recognition (beyond the bounds of linguistics itself) of the importance of language in human meaning-making.

At the latest in the 1980s, the linguistic turn also spread to social sciences such as history or sociology. Under the influence of postmodernism and poststructuralism, there was a turning away from the claim to discover historical truths and hard facts. Instead, one turned to discourse/language, within which truths and facts are first socially articulated. Michel Foucault is one important key actor here.

Connecting concepts/fields etc: conversation analysis; ethnomethodology; intersubjectivity; structuralism; symbolic interactionism

Basically: language is key but insufficient and should/needs be taken into consideration, as we construct the world through language (the last bit however might only apply to some more EXTREME perspectives)

Cultural turn

Starting in the early 1970s, the cultural turn focuses on *culture* in contemporary debates, and it also describes a shift in emphasis toward meaning and away from a positivist epistemology of facts.  Therefore, the cultural turn places the concept of culture, and the related notions of meaningcognitionaffect, and symbols at the centre of methodological and theoretical focus. Culture as such is an elusive concept I think, but for the sake of this blog, it can be defined as the social process whereby people communicate meanings, make sense of their world, construct their identities, and define their beliefs and values.

Nash (2001) distinguishes 2 forms: the ‘epistemological’ case in which culture is seen as universally constitutive of social relations and identities; and the ‘historical’ case in which culture is seen as playing an unprecedented role in constituting social relations and identities in contemporary society.

She further elaborates, that the epistemological case is based on theoretical considerations, whereas the historical case is empirical, concerning historical changes in social life. The author, however, also points out, that in practice these claims overlap in the application of the ‘cultural turn’ to studies of contemporary social life.

Nash also names Giddens approach to relate structure and agency through structuration theory. “He argues that social structures are reproduced in the everyday practices of social actors who are knowledgeable about the practices in which they are engaged. As Giddens sees it, while structures provide the resources for social action, they are only realised through the skilled interactions of social actors (Giddens 1984). It is in so far as knowledge is seen as an aspect of culture that Giddens’s theory of structuration is a theory of the cultural constitution of social relations and”

Basically: Culture is important and determines how we see/make meaning of the world.

Ontological turn- work in progress

The ontological turn is a reaction to the cultural turn. It points out that although human beings may differ in their ideas about or viewpoints on the world and other material or natural objects, such objects themselves do not vary with these ideas. ‘Cultures’ may differ, but nature does not.

Instead of assuming many worldviews, only one world, and claiming that epistemologies (forms of knowing or understanding) vary, but that there is only one ontology (a form of being or existing), the ontological turn, proposes that worlds, as well as worldviews, may vary.

“Proponents of anthropology’s recent “ontological turn”, however, argue that this concern for differences in cultural perspective implies something else, with which they do not agree (Henare et al. 2006; Viveiros deCastro 1998; 2003; 2004b): that the things upon which people have different perspectives are always and everywhere the same. People see the world in different ways, but the world is still the world. The obvious analogy is with language: earth may be called terra in Italian, terre in French, and zemlja in Croatian, and each word may come with its distinct array of symbolic connotations, but the object it denotes remains the same. The sense of this opposition is echoed by countless other dichotomies: ideas vs. matter, subjective vs. objective, epistemology vs. ontology, and, of course, nature vs. culture. This, roughly speaking, is the orthodoxy that proponents of the “ontological turn” in anthropology claim to identify and wish to overturn.” (Heywood, 2017)

Material Turn

The material turn has led to a new interest in the non-verbal and non-signifying aspects of the material world/ materiality of things/objects.

The focus is on how knowledge works in culturally created and used objects or things: What do artefacts/objects/things say about a society and its history, or what meanings do they transfer?

Debates on the material turn are often based on considerations formulated within the framework of practices, but in some cases, they also go beyond this, insofar as they think of the social as no longer only or necessarily human, as in actor-network theory or affordance theory, which considers “non-human beings” such as artefacts or animals (cf. also Human-Animal Studies) as essential components of the social.

  • Material trap: „: saying that something is “material” or qualifies any research object as “material being” usually hides more of it than trying to find the right terms to define what you are looking at. “Materializing” everything could become a semiotic trap full of meaningless keywords. So without denying it and taking into account this “material turn”, we should stay focused on our field data and maybe find another way to say that we care about “materiality” (

Connected concepts/ theories: ANT, Affordance Theory, Assemblage Theory…

Basically: Material and non-human actors matter

Historical Turn

The historical turn was a reaction to Kant (not exactly sure why need to read more about Kant)

This turn was/is characterized by a tendency to analyze philosophical problems by situating them in their historical context. Kuhn perspective on scientific knowledge concerning paradigms plays an important role here and I can see similarities to some of Foucault’s ideas (some discourse being restricted/allowed in a certain period).

Basically: The circumstances in a specific period are important in how we see the world.

Practice Turn- work in progress

Not sure this fits in but I have seen it more and more recently:

The practice turn explores the role of practice and practices in human activity à might write a practice blog post

Dialectic vs Dialogic

I’ve come across these two terms quite often, so whats the difference?

Dialectic: two competing perspectives meet and one gains primacy, basically handle disagreement and provides a sense of progress. Conflict => agreement (connection to Hegel: In Hegel’s work, dialectics is the method of epistemological cognition opposed to metaphysics)

Dialogic: various approaches coexist and are relativistic, it all depends on circumstances  and what is the desired effect of interaction (e.g. emotions and ethics) à no urgency of “best” idea

Sociology/ Social Science/ Culture Studies…Humanities?

This might be a stupid question, but it just popped up into my head and I was wondering ever since. To clarify what the terms mean and how they are connected, I had a quick look and summarized my thoughts below.

Social science as the umbrella term: aspects of human society. Sociology is one part of social science and focuses on society, human social behaviour, patterns of social relationships, social interaction, and aspects of culture associated with everyday life, meaning it focuses on aspects of human society. Somewhere I found the info that social science primarily focus on “in the now”. Whereas humanities focus on the product of human society (literature, arts, languages, philosophy…).

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Infrastructure studies, platform studies, software studies, media studies, (critical) data studies – what are they about?!

I’ve been looking in several traditions and fields, some that are recurring are infrastructure studies, software studies, media studies, data studies (as well as the prefix ‘critical’ so several of them). I wanted to have a brief, and probably superficial look at what they are about and how I can demarcate them from one another. I assume that all of them are interdisciplinary, possibly complicating this endeavour 😀 But let’s give it a try:

Infrastructure Studies:

Infrastructure studies, emerging from Science and Technology studies and information sciences, focuses on analyzing large and essential sociotechnical systems. The analysis can entail telecommunication networks, power grids and possibly sewer systems, but also digital infrastructure. Overall infrastructure studies explore widely accessible and shared systems and services that are often provided by governments in the public interest. According to (Plantin et al., 2018) infrastructure studies developed along 2 lines; the first focuses on a historical perspective of large systems while the second highlights the sociology of infrastructure, also highlighting human elements such as work practices, habits, organizational culture etc. Hence, Infrastructure Studies simultaneously addresses the technical, social, and organizational aspects of the development, usage, and maintenance of infrastructures in local communities as well as global arenas. Further, this second line of thought often associated with Star and Bowker has highlighted key features of infrastructure such as ubiquity, reliability, invisibility, gateways, breakdown as well as infrastructure as learned in communities of practice.

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My Journey as PhD- The Importance of Perspective

My point of view on things, situations, people etc. is very personal and usually implicit. I am not always aware of my perspective on things, even though I try to reflect more – also because interpretative/qualitative researchers need to in their research.

However, developing the awareness of my perspective is not always easy, especially if it is entangled with some features of imposter syndrome. I’ve always tried to see the good and the positive in a situation that might be negative at first sight, and I think that I am relatively good at it- EXCEPT when it comes to my academic career and my PhD.

To give some context: I am part of several projects and I am supposed to “lead” an article (whatever the hell that might entail) and to present at two conferences soonish. I haven’t had focused supervision in months and I can tell you I have been PANICKING about this regularly. My perspective on this has been, that I have not made enough progress that my supervisors would want to spend time on my work. Well, I CHOSE to see it in that way.

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Science and Technology Studies (STS)

STS is EVERYWHERE! But what exactly IS STS?! Where does it come from? How can I situate myself in the field??

To answer these questions I have started to read the following book and will write down some notes: Sismondo, Sergio (2004). An Introduction to Science and Technology Studies. Blackwell.


STS: the intersection of different fields (sociology, history, philosophy, anthropology).

Previously two streams, have now been merged:

  • S& TS (science and technology studies): science and technology understood as a discursive, social and material activity, later on, concerned with legitimate places of expertise, science in public spheres, place of public interest in scientific decision making
  • STS (Science, Technology and Society): understands social issues linked to the development in science and technology, those developments could be harnessed to democratic /egalitarian ideals. à later on concerned with understanding the dynamics of science, technology and medicine.
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Research Paradigms 1: Positivism, Post-Positivsm, Critical Theory & Constructivism

Guba, E. G., & Lincoln, Y. S. (1994). Competing paradigms in qualitative research. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (pp. 105-117). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Today I am going to write a brief recap on paradigms and critical realism. The basis for this is an article written by Guba and Lincoln, however, there are several versions of it and I am not sure if THIS is the right source. The version that I read looks primarily at 4 different paradigms; positivist, post-positivist, critical theory and constructivist. I know, though, that there are I think newer versions of this article, which for example also talk about axiology and a participatory paradigm.

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My Journey as a PhD- Visual Snow Syndrome

Today I am going to talk about something personal again. Last year I’ve been diagnosed with Visual Snow Syndrome (VSS) and I wanted to share my experiences.

First of all, what is VSS?

“Visual snow (VS) is a recently identified neurologic condition consisting of a constant positive visual disturbance described as uncountable tiny dots over the entire visual field. In addition to the static, patients very often report visual symptoms such as palinopsia, entoptic phenomena, photophobia, and nyctalopia”. (Puledda et al., 2020)

How I found out:

In retrospect I cannot pinpoint when exactly I GOT the symptoms of VSS, I might have had them all my life but I all of a sudden noticed them. I think I started to notice the symptoms after a quite stressful period when it became really difficult to read a certain book. Difficult is an understatement, it became impossible. The book used a particularly small, narrow font and basically no line spacing. What I saw was kind of a nervous picture, the lines and letter were kind of wobbling around and there was some sense of erratic movement that I could not pinpoint. In addition to this, things felt as if they were “burnt” into my retina. We all know this when we look at the sun too long and then look at something else, but I had it with everything that was slightly darker and in front of a mono-coloured surface. Moreover, these afterimages did not last 2-3 seconds but 30ish. I also noticed that looking at screens became difficult as if there was always something “in the way” and I tried to blink and squint but it did not help. Also, it was present 24/7, I COULD NEVER REST EVEN WHEN I CLOSED MY EYES!!

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