08:45 - 10:30
Politics, management and a science of subjectivity, or: sensing beer, margarine and water in the peripheral nation of Sweden.
Oral presentation
Daniel Normark
Uppsala STS, department of economic history Uppsala university
This presentation summarizes findings from three historical object-biographies on flavor. In these cases, flavor was questioned, investigated and stabilized as an explicit quality of the material itself. Furthermore, the examples show how increased understanding and subsequently control of flavor affected the production and consumption of theses goods. From 1917 to the mid 1960s the examples show an increased use of scientific methods, but rather than confirming an expansion they provide a more nuanced ambivalence of the limits of science.

In the aftermath of World War I the flavor of beer became politically contested which led to a state-run investigation of the link between alcohol and the flavor of beer. Flavor became political. When looking at margarine flavor became a quality of control. Initially as a means of controlling produces but expanding into an organizational system of management and financial incentive. Thus, between the 1940s to the 1960 the Swedish margarine company created a division of sensory management. Finally, as a public good, water became a topic of investigation of psychologists (David Katz) and physicians (Yngve Zotterman). Both researchers created their own assemblage of technical objects of “water tasting” while simultaneously addressing the same epistemic thing i.e. “the water taste”. The story reveals the ontological difference between the effort of meretriciously capture the neural response of water, controlling the technologies, stimuli and bodies for used for manipulation or the phenomenological investigation of psychophysical responses taking place in the encounter with water as fully subjective science.

Taken together, the cases of sensory science endeavors highlight the importance of subjectivity (vs objectivity) as a teleological goal of science. One could argue in line with the philosopher Edmund Husserl that, in order to understand the world, we are dependent on science of subjectivity as much as science of objectivity.