“Enlightenment”: Patents and Embedded Knowledge in a Taiwanese LED Company

12:00 pm on Friday, April 5, 2013
1:30 pm on Friday, April 5, 2013
Matt West (PhD candidate, Columbia University) In Barth's 2002 article on the Anthropology of Knowledge, he argues “that knowledge always has three faces: a substantive corpus of assertions, a range of media of representation, and a social organization.” His work has pursued knowledge in its broadest sense as a sort of stand in for culture, an entrance into interpretation, and onto specific ways of being in the world. On another side of the social science of knowledge, Ian Hacking (1983) suggests that scientific knowledge of objects and laws come not as discoveries about a world out there, but rather as the creation, through intervention, of new objects and laws specific to carefully controlled experimental conditions. As I work, in this presentation, through a discussion of how people in a Taiwanese LED company struggle in their (quite explicit) pursuit of knowledge both of and through the production of light, I aim for a loose synthesis of the conceptual work of these two scholars of knowledge. The paper focuses on the concurrent work by R&D engineers to produce particular semiconductor properties in their material systems and of patent engineers to find, delineate, and extract a selection of these material properties for inclusion in company patent applications. I discuss both my own and my informants' pursuit of answers to how “new” knowledge is produced, where it might be seen to be located or to emerge from, and how it might be controlled for particular ends. Please RSVP to palmerm@bu.edu