I have returned to my habit of listening to "Thinking about Science" podcast, while doing boring gym-exercise tasks, and I listened to a great one with Barbara Duden and Silya Samerski. Of course, I tend to think they're great when they say the stuff I've been arguing about for the last 6 years of my education, which isn't very long in the scheme of things, but is always pleasurable when one comes to an idea on one's own (and in spite of mainstream naysayers), only to find that there is actually a whole world of thinkers who concur. At the end of Duden's part of the podcast, which is about the concept of the gene and the ways in which the "gene" means different things in different contexts (see general Science & Technology Studies theory about scientific objects), the interviewer asks her what is the relevance and application of understanding that there's a cultural perception of the gene and a scientific/researcher perspective on the gene, and that these are very radically different ideas. She sighs, and admits that it doesn't really change anything -- it's a bit of an academic exercise. It excites academics, but what difference does it make if the meaning of the world shifts depending on your perspective? This is not actually a radical or particularly academic understanding of things. And yet, we spend a lot of time, we cultural anthropologists or science studies types, parsing out the different meanings and interpretations of things. But it doesn't "get" us anywhere, it seems. The world of researchers and scientists are not particularly interested in hearing why they've designed something with a specific framework in mind that might be interpreted differently in the world at large. And those who engage with the object or technology, don't really care whether it has a different meaning outside their everyday lives.
I jokingly suggested to HL on the phone today that I am an excellent diagnostician (about certain personal affairs), but not so good at the practitioner side of things -- and I suspect that this extends to all aspects of my life.
I read an article in New Science, about the "science of bad boys," which I am not going to bother linking to because why give them traffic -- and also it's an inane article. I hate all the scientific research that grounds understanding of cultural phenomena in evolutionary theory -- and particularly the gendered way it's usually interpreted. The refusal to ground social behaviors in cultural context irritates the hell out of me. A friend who is gay recently has found himself attracted to F to M transsexuals (women who become men, whether physiologically or live their lives as such) and we were discussing some of the challenges he found with dealing with a female physiology -- which I suggested might be partly due to lack of experience with the female form. He suggested that he just wasn't attracted to certain female parts, but I pointed out that even straight boys I've known over the years have learned to become more comfortable with the female anatomy. The idea that one would intrinsically find the messier parts of physical intimacy attractive seems to be a form of this assumption that we're "programmed" to desire or find interesting all aspects of the sex we're attracted to. I guess what I'm trying to say, connecting my gay friend's newish interest in a different form of male to the bad boys' scientifically proven behavior is that none of these things ought to be analyzed devoid of their cultural context.
Was that a terribly long way of saying something simple?
The self-loathing, by the way, is due to the recognition of what Duden admitted, that maybe all this work and theorizing doesn't add up to much. Yet, how does one become a productive practitioner and not just a diagnostician?