Japanese Journal of Cultural Anthropology
Online ISSN : 2424-0516
Print ISSN : 1349-0648
ISSN-L : 1349-0648
Seismology, Practices, and Networks : An Anthropological Study of Seismographic Observation in Turkey(<Special Theme>Anthropology of Science and Technology)
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2007 Volume 71 Issue 4 Pages 540-559


Though it has been said that anthropologists do their fieldwork at places far removed from science and technology, during fieldwork we recognize that any community where anthropologists go has already been "polluted" by science and technology. Now it can be said that science and technology are an essential part of our everyday life. Under such circumstances, this paper attempts to describe them anthropologically. Generally speaking, an anthropological approach to science and technology can assume two forms: one is to describe their influence on social life, and the other is to tackle directly the fields where they are is produced. My approach is the latter. This paper analyzes the process of scientific knowledge production at a seismographic observatory in Istanbul. The anthropological or ethnographical study of science and technology has a 30-year history in literature of science studies. Students of that school have observed what scientists really do (including chatting over coffee or lobbying outside the laboratory to raise money), and have unveiled how scientific activities - as a hybrid of scientists, experimental instruments, data, devices, technicians, local culture, applications for funds, technical papers - produce scientific facts. Sometimes they are criticized because of their tendency to emphasize the socially-constructedness of scientific facts, but their works are appreciated at least because they describe dynamics between society and nature in the practice of science. My analysis of the seismographic observatory basically depends on the "mangle" model posited by A. Pickering. This paper consists of five chapters. The first is an introduction, starting with an episode about an event that happened on August 19, 1999. On that day, two days after a great earthquake hit northwest Turkey, a famous seismologist, who was the director of the KOERI (Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute) in Istanbul, warned on TV that a big earthquake might hit Istanbul in a couple of days and that people should stay out during the night. Although his prediction turned out to be false (no earthquake happened), it is true that his warning confused Istanbul residents very much. Why did people take the warning seriously? Because at that time he was providing "scientific" data about earthquakes continuously as the director of a "scientific" observatory of earthquake. Then, what was the prediction on that day? Was it a "scientific" fact like other normal data? To answer that, it is necessary to understand the process of scientific knowledge production at the observatory in question, and the context surrounding Turkish seismology more precisely. I try to describe them relying on field data collected during my one-year term of field research (2004-2005) in the observatory. The second chapter provides contextual information about KOERI and UDIM (National Earthquake Observation Center), the center for seismography in KOERI. KOERI (formerly the Istanbul Observatory) was established in 1868 as a weather and planetary observatory. But after the 1894 Istanbul earthquake, the sultan at that time ordered a seismometer to be brought there. That was the start of Turkish seismology. After World War II, seismology (geophysics) was institutionalized in Turkey, but geophysics was a rather marginal discipline with a small budget, so was unable to catch up with the worldwide trend toward "big science." So the Turkish network of seismography is very unique and heterogeneous. In the third and the fourth chapters, I describe the system of seismographic observation in detail. The third chapter looks at the network in terms of technology. The network consists of: (l) seismometers, (2) data communication systems, and (3) computational programs. I follow the trials and errors in the improvement of each part. Now at UDIM, ground tremors are

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