Making measuring bodies18/10/21
Anna has published a new article called Making Measuring Bodies, which has appeared in the STS journal Science, Technology & Human Values. The article tackles the topic of measurement and metrics in medicine by looking at how measuring bodies are made in medical schools, and the roles of materials (i.e. measuring tapes) in this making. You can read the full abstract and acknowledgements below, and access the article via the following link: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/01622439211041159
Making Measuring Bodies, abstract
Medicine is often criticized in science and technology studies (STS) for its dominating measuring practices. To date, the focus has been on two areas of “metric work”: health-care workers and metric infrastructures. In this article, I step back into the training of clinicians, which is important for understanding more about how practices of measurement are developed. I draw on ethnographic fieldwork in a Dutch medical school to look at how a ubiquitous and mundane tool––measuring tapes––is embodied by medical students as they learn to coordinate their sensory knowledge. In doing so, they create their own bodies as the standard or measure of things. Unpacking educational practices concerning this object, I suggest that tracing the making of measuring bodies offers new insights into medical metric work. This also speaks to the growing interest in STS in sensory science, where the body is fashioned as a measuring instrument. Specifically, two interrelated contributions build on and deepen STS scholarship: first, the article shows that learning is an embodied process of inner-scaffold making; second, it suggests that the numerical objectification of sensory knowing is not a calibration to “objectivity machines” but rather to oscillations between bodies and objects that involve sensory-numerical work.
The anonymous reviewers were generous with their time and comments and suggested wonderful ways and literatures to expand and articulate my argument. Thanks to Katie Vann and Edward Hackett at Science, Technology, & Human Values for refining this even further and for suggestions for future work. I am grateful to Ike Kamphof, Andy McDowell, and John Nott who shared comments on much earlier and rougher drafts and Candida Sanchez Burmester for her intellectual and administrative input. Thanks also to the organizers and participants of the 4S 2020 online/Prague panel “Health, care (dis)abilities” for their comments and questions. As ever, I am grateful to the generosity of those I work with in my field sites, for their time and critical ideas, and for the collegial support of the rest of the Making Clinical Sense team. Finally, gratitude for my husband who shared parenting during our various pandemic lockdowns, which meant I could carve out time to write and revise.