Taking Nature's Measure

in Landscapes and Labscapes

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print November 2002 | ISBN: 9780226450094
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226450117 | DOI:
Taking Nature's Measure

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  • History of Science and Technology


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Values and expectations shape what people do and what communities become; but so do actions and their outcomes, what works and what does not. Future projections prove accurate or misguided as people act them out. Material culture is always a powerful vehicle of cultural mingling and transformation. Material things and practices carry as much cultural baggage as theories or theologies, but more unobtrusively. They can serve as the entering wedge for a larger cultural complex, when the whole complex would seem threatening to recipients' own culture. Measuring was less simple and straightforward for field biologists than counting was. Ecologists could lay out a quadrat anywhere and start counting; measuring in the field required specialized physical instruments, most of which were initially borrowed from other disciplines and designed for other purposes. Places and skills of placing become a crucial part of instrumental practices in the field in a way that is quite alien to laboratory experience.

Keywords: measure; values; expectations; instrumental practices; laboratory experience

Chapter.  14567 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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