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research field exams: areas of inquiry and objective of research – final draft

February 1, 2011

I’ve been working on a draft of what I called my research ‘manifesto’ so as to understand more concretely the main areas of concern and inquiry for my research field. This is of course still a work in progress so I welcome all forms of feedback.


In terms of my research field, I am interested in scientific epistemology as a way of approaching ontology. In speaking of the scientific, I am delineating categories of knowledge that are considered legitimate.  In my research, I am attempting to disentangle (if possible) and denature ontology from the politics of knowledge.  I am interested in how knowledges undergo processes of legitimization and delegitimization in knowledge-making.  Can we consider knowledge as having moved from atomic/discrete/elementary units of abstract/conceptual atoms of ideas to one that is materially embodied? I am interested in how phenomenology of science can be determined through

a) evidence b) empirical methods c)experiments d) mathematical formalism/realism

Can knowledge exists outside of the functional? Can knowledge even exist as a minimal unit of being, the most basic unit that is the core of its existence, or can knowledge be infinitely stripped off?

Epistemology is regarded as something that frames, encases and covers the ontological. What I am interested in doing is to create a method for differentiating the ontological from the epistemological.  I have identified fictive modeling of science as a particular narrative device for me to create an environment for thought experiments so as to be able to simulate some of the philosophical ideas and ontologies of science that may not yet be demonstratable in real-time.

The scientific body of knowledge that is my area of investigative interest is elementary particle physics, via the study of the Large Hadron Collider. LHC is seen as the medium for transformation from ontological to epistemological knowledge forms.  The epistemological, constructed in the aftermath of analyses and interpretations of raw data, is formed through an organization and distillation of the ontological.

I am interested in the building up of critical theories through existing and evolving scientific theories, particularly quantum theories.  I am interested in understanding what aspects of these theories are amenable to functioning as critical theories and to know what can we learn from these theories.  I am also interested in the possibility of the transformative abilities of these theories to change our perspectives of the world.

I argue that the social and political are epistemological, whereas the ontological is that which is mathematical.

Some of the areas I would like to explore are:

1. phenomenology and ontology as espoused in critical theory.  Theories of phenomenology I will be exploring will be that espoused by Husserl and Merleau-Ponty. I would also be looking at ontological theories through Simondon, de Landa, Parisi, Whitehead, Bohm, Planck, Barad. Bohr and Darrigol.

2. Constructivism  – delimits the natural versus the social – traced through Latour, Shapin, Pickering, and Cetina-Knorr

3. Feminist epistemology – looking into the possibility of using a theoretical frame to look at the hierarchies of knowledges – priorities of knowledge and how that is determinable. I am also interested in the elucidation of feminist epistemological frameworks in the shaping of epistemic frameworks.

4. Utilization of the existing theories of science – such as elementary particle physics to think reflexively about how to construct nature’s body and to demarcate the relationship between nature’s body and the social world.

5. To trace the transition from fundamental/theoretical science of physics to areas of experimentations. To understand and track the transitions and changes between these two substrates of knowledge. In particle physics, phenomenology is a bridge between theoretical constructs and experimental data, allowing both sides to mutually reinforce the work done by the other. To understand what phenomenology means to the particle physicists, it is important to understand how they use calibration and simulations to build the equations they use in the final analysis of data and interpretations made about the Standard Model. The utilization of phenomenology in particle physics enables theoreticians to readjust, discard, fine-tune and reinforce their hypotheses and predictions made in physical laws as well as in the mathematics used for reconstructing the physical world through simulations. For the experimentalists, phenomenology allows them to categorize and organize the multiplicity of data obtained and analyzed, and to use the data to piece together dispersed fragments that will unlock the mysteries of the universe. Hence, phenomenology allows the selection of the most practically useful data that are further refined through data simulation so that it is possible to visualize the segments of the world that only exists in abstraction for us.  This is because our relationship to the information that nature provides us with, such as the outcome of particle collisions, is always mediated through the machine. In other words, we can only ‘experience’ the material that the machine, which is the computer GRID in this case, is able to analyze and make sense of, even if we may ‘know’ how it looks like with the aid of mathematical formalism. But, it is in our interest to attempt to experience, also, data in mathematical formalism.

6.What can the statistically congregated/collected data tells us about the selection processes – what are the parameters that are involved in them? I will be examining Monte-Carlo (simulation methods) that are being deployed to form pre-determined parameters for the purpose of running simultaneously all the  analyses of the machine-collected data. What are the implications of having simulated data compared to real-time data and how does that affect one’s analysis? Would the predicted results of the simulated data blind us from looking at results that we may not have otherwise predicted? This section relates back to the question of phenomenology and data.

7. To understand the structures of organizations involved in decision-making and the delegation of informational processing/analyses across borders, machines and experimental groups.

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