Lab

From Order to Disorder

Jan 5, 2016

LABORATORY LIFE
Bruno Latour · Steve Woolgar

5 mins. John enters and goes into his office. He says something very quickly about having made a bad mistake. He had sent the review of a paper. . . . The rest of the sentence is inaudible.
5 mins. 30 secs. Barbara enters. She asks Spencer what kind of solvent to put on the column. Spencer answers from his office. Barbara leaves and goes to the bench.
5mins.35secs. JanecomesinandasksSpencer: “Whenyoupreparefor I.V. with morphine, is it in saline or in water?” Spencer, apparently writing at his desk, answers from his office. Jane leaves.
6 mins. 15 secs. Wilson enters and looks into a number of offices, trying to gather people together for a staff meeting. He receives vague promises. “It’s a question of four thousand bucks which has to be resolved in the next two minutes, at most.” He leaves for the lobby.
6 mins. 20 secs. Bill comes from the chemistry section and gives Spencer a thin vial: “Here are your two hundred micrograms, remember to put this code number on the book,” and he points to the label. He leaves the room.
Long silence. The library is empty. Some write in their offices, some work by windows in the brighly lit bench space. The staccato noise of typewriting can be heard from the lobby.
9 mins. Julius comes in eating an apple and perusing a copy of Nature.
9 mins. 10 secs. Julie comes in from the chemistry section, sits down on the table, unfolds the computer sheets she was carrying, and begins to fill in a sheet of paper. Spencer emerges from his office, looks over her shoulder and says: “hmm, looks nice.” He then disappears into John’s office with a few pages of draft.
9 mins. 20 secs. A secretary comes in from the lobby and places a newly typed draft on John’s desk. She and John briefly exchange remarks about deadlines.
9 mins. 30 secs. Immediately following her, Rose, the inventory assistant, arrives to tell John that a device he wants to buy will cost three hundred dollars. They talk in John’s office and laugh. She leaves.
Silence again.
10 mins. John screams from his office: “Hey Spencer, do you know of any clinical group reporting production of SS in tumour cells?” Spencer yells back from his office: “I read that in the abstracts of the Asilomar conference, it was presented as a well-known fact.” John: “What was the evidence for that?” Spencer: “Well, they got an increase in … and concluded it was due to SS. Maybe, I’m not sure they directly tested biological activities, I’m not sure.” John: “Why don’t you try it on next Monday’s bioassay?”
10 mins. 55 secs. Bill and Mary come in suddenly. They are at the end of a discussion. “I don’t believe this paper,” says Bill. “No, it’s so badly written. You see, it must have been written by an M.D.” They look at Spencer and laugh, . , (excerpt from observer’s notes)

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