Sensory Skill in Laboratory Practice

Main researcher: Joeri Bruyninckx

This ongoing project explores how sensory skills, including listening, serve investigators in a laboratory environment. In many fields, its highly technically mediated state seems to underline science’s disembodied status. But even if in such fields sensory skills no longer serve as a primary research tool (as they may in field observation, for instance), they are still often involved in plenty of secondary ways. Scientists rely on their sensory skills, for instance, in checking up on the status of experimental processes, in monitoring their progress or diagnosing their equipment’s reliability. This project examines how researchers and technicians rely on such sensory practices (and the tacit skills that are required for it) to negotiate their reliance on standard instruments and techniques.

Methodologically, this project focuses on two laboratories ― a plasma physics laboratory at a Dutch university, and a chemistry facility at an American university ― drawing on periods of multi-sensory ethnographic observation and semi-structured qualitative interviews with researchers and technical staff.

Leave a Reply