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“Modes of Knowing and the Construction of Truth Discourses”

Friday, September 28 1:00-2:00 PM

Moderator: Reed Johnson, Slavic Languages and Literature Fellow

Speakers:

Brenda Gardenour; History, St. Louis College of Pharmacy
Phantasmic Science: Proving the Paranormal on Twenty-First Century American Television

Seppo Luoto; School of Management, University of Vaasa
The truth-claims of the servitization in manufacturing – A narrative analysis of scientific articles

Scott McGinnis; Department of History, University of California-Berkeley
The Edge of Truth and Tradition in the Technical Essays of an Early Chinese Skeptic


Abstracts:

Brenda Gardenour; History, St. Louis College of Pharmacy
Phantasmic Science: Proving the Paranormal on Twenty-First Century American Television

Over the past decade, American “reality” television has been haunted by a proliferation of paranormal programs, the most popular of which combine documentary-style historical narration, the testimonies of those who have witnessed supernatural activity, and POV filming as scaffolding for their primary focus—the scientific proof of the paranormal.  Shows such as the Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures (2008-present) and SyFy’s Ghost Hunters (2004-present) feature heavily-equipped teams who investigate haunted spaces using infrared cameras, EVP recorders,  heat detectors, experimental ghost-attraction devices, and a plethora of digital software.  Other programs such as A&E’s Paranormal State rely not only on quasi-scientific technology but also on religious authorities such as priests and demonologists, the advice of paranormal experts, and the insight of psychics—all of which have their own authoritative languages of proof and truth.  Paranormal investigation programs, by their very nature, weave together the specific rationalities of science, religion, and the supernatural and in so doing create a body of imaginary knowledge that resonates in the popular imagination. This paper will examine the roles of science and technology in paranormal investigation programs and how the scientific method is misappropriated in order to produce authoritative proof of a longed-for invisible world.  The uneasy (if not imaginary) coalition of science, religion, and the supernatural in such programs speaks to deep anxieties in American culture about epistemologies, truth, and identity, as well as our desperate longing for the existence of the spiritual in an increasingly tenuous material world.


Seppo Luoto; School of Management, University of Vaasa
The truth-claims of the servitization in manufacturing – A narrative analysis of scientific articles

The studies of Latour (1987) and Barthes (2000) show that scientific texts are producing “truth- claims”, “discourses” (Foucalt 1972), or “narratives” (Sheehan & Rode 1999) with historical, cultural and ideological orientations. In this study the focus is on how “truth-claims” related to servitization are “done with words” in the scientific arenas.

For the research 75 scientific articles (articles from years 1972-2011) were chosen for narrative analysis. The analysis was done with the concept of “model-narrative” containing both structural and post-structural aspects of narratives.

The model-narrative of servitization could be constructed as follows: in the preliminary narrative (introduction) the servitization is motivated by global competition where the (Western) companies do have one and only option to “servitize” in order to succeed against rivals. In the main narrative (methods and results) the companies face challenges of transitioning to services, but with suggested managerial implications and their implementation these challenges will be turned to success. In the concluding narrative (discussion) the companies have gained the competency against rivals and the development of services can be done with additional research.

This study showed that model-narrative as an analysis tool could bring new approaches in studying servitization research. Based on this research it could be said that without alternative research settings current research on servitization in manufacturing industries will be stuck in normative settings producing the rules and starting points also to the following researchers.


Scott McGinnis; Department of History, University of California-Berkeley
The Edge of Truth and Tradition in the Technical Essays of an Early Chinese Skeptic

The first-century Chinese philosopher Wang Chong (27-ca. 100) is known today as a great skeptic.  In his collected essays, the Balanced Discourses (Lunheng), he disputes conventional opinions on nearly every imaginable subject—philosophy, history, astronomy, cosmology, politics, myth, divination, etc.  From the 12th century, when a new Confucian orthodoxy emerged, Chinese thinkers rejected Wang Chong for having been irreverent to Confucius.  This changed in the 19th and 20th centuries, when Chinese political reformers blamed Confucius for Chinese “backwardness,” and Wang Chong was then hailed as a man who saw beyond the superstitions of his day.  In fact, neither assessment has it quite right.

In the Han dynasty (205 BC-AD 220), when Confucius was lauded as the supreme sage, Wang Chong wrote an essay critical of his philosophy; however, he also praised Confucius for his insight and wisdom. And, although he lambasts many of what he calls “empty” theories, his doubt, and his own theories, are still phrased in the language and thought of his times. For my paper, focusing on Wang Chong’s essays on astronomy and cosmology, I propose to interrogate the ways that he does and does not break from his received tradition. I will argue that Wang Chong was indeed a revolutionary thinker, but one who was constrained by the theories of his day—and it could not have been otherwise. In the end, by seeing how such a radical thinker pushed against the limits of tradition in that very distant context, we should be reminded that our knowledge is constrained too, and we should be inspired to locate and overcome our own limitations, at the edge of truth and tradition.

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