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Computing and scientific redefinitions: Georges Laplace’s and Jean-Claude Gardin’s archaeology programs

Abstract : The research programs developed through the second part of the 20th century by Georges Laplace and Jean-Claude Gardin both offered in-depth redefinitions of the criteria of scientificity and of the reasoning process in archaeology. Their criticism was grounded in their concern to make these processes explicit through the use of new formalized methods. George Laplace’s “typologie analytique et structurale” was based on arithmetical formalization, while Jean-Claude Gardin’s “archéologie logiciste” relied on logical and semantic formalizations, rooted in his former work on automatic documentation. However, even though they shared a common concern for formalization, these programs underwent very different social and institutional developments. This paper aims at comparing their stories, with a focus on the role played in their evolution by the use of data processing instruments. Paying attention to instruments has become a classical perspective in science studies, especially in ethnographical investigations of scientific practices [Strasser 2002]. Here we shall consider instruments at a macroscopic level, in order to examine three issues: 1) The relationships between these archaeology programs and the broader computerization of science in France, with an attention paid to the geographic location of computer resources. 2) The appearance of certain patterns of scientific collaboration, related to the use of instruments. 3) The direct and indirect impacts of archeological research on computer science. Our communication will rely on the analysis of archives and on interviews with individuals involved in these archaeological programs and in the development of computer science in France. Based on two cases which are considered to be pioneering by historians of archaeology [Djindjian 2012], we will display the relationship between archaeology and information machines, in a period when computing became progressively a scientific discipline [Mounier-Kuhn 2010]. Beyond the particular case of the permeability between archaeological and logico-mathematical fields (particularly applied mathematics), we deal with the broader issue of the evolution of the regime of knowledge production throughout the 20th century. Historians and sociologists of science have proposed numerous frameworks to interpret this evolution, mostly with regard to experimental science and “Big Science”. For instance, M. Gibbons [1994] proposed a switch from “mode 1” to “mode 2,” characterized by a massive development of transdisciplinarity and transnationality in scientific activities. Another interpretation is the concept of “research-technology,” advanced by T. Shinn [2005], who defines it as the increasing importance of actors with “interstitial, metrological and general” aptitudes. We will compare our archaeological cases to these frameworks in order to get a historical understanding of what it can teach us about the modalities of scientific activities throughout the second half of the 20th Century, viewed from the Little and Not-Yet-Big Science perspectives.
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Contributor : Sébastien Plutniak <>
Submitted on : Thursday, July 9, 2020 - 11:42:45 AM
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  • HAL Id : halshs-02894830, version 1


Pierre-Éric Mounier-Kuhn, Sébastien Plutniak. Computing and scientific redefinitions: Georges Laplace’s and Jean-Claude Gardin’s archaeology programs. Computer Applications in Archaeology, Apr 2014, Paris, France. ⟨halshs-02894830⟩



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