Studying Behavior Or Socially Constructing an Artifact?

In January, Ellen Coulter of ABC news in Australia covered CSIRO’s (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) latest micro-technology in her online article: “CSIRO, University of Tasmania scientists fit tiny sensors onto honey bees to study behavior.” Ellen underlines the whole procedure, and explains that 5000 bees are put to sleep, are then shaved, and a tiny sensor is placed on their head. These sensors record the movements and the behavior of the bees and are going to help the scientists understand optimal reproducing conditions, and to understand the effect of pesticides on bees. Article also explains that the future goal is to decrease the size of the sensor and fit it on flies and mosquitoes. The research covered in this article can be looked at the social construction (constructivism) of micro-sensors. Originally, the sensors were bigger and only a few bees were used; however, now 5000 are being used, and plans are being made to minimize the size of the sensors and to use them on flies and mosquitoes. The article leaves the reader with questions like what are the benefits of sensors on the flies and mosquitoes? The reader has a different technological frame, and based on his or her metaphors, may propose that the sensors could be used to not only gather agricultural data, but can be utilized in a wide variety of applications; for example, monitoring weather, surveillance, monitoring traffic, floods, etc. However, this artifact is socially constructed based on the needs of the scientific community working on the project. Although not explained, it is clear that planning to make the sensors smaller is going to serve important purposes far beyond the welfare of flies and mosquitoes. This type of development of an artifact by different actors in different technological frames, using their respective interpretative flexibility, into a technology that could be used in their specific fields is an example of constructivism. How these sensors are developed over time and are stabilized into a beneficial artifact by different social groups corresponds to the definition of constructivism: society constructs how science shapes our lives.


Bijker, Wiebe. 2012 [1987]. “The Social Construction of Bakelite: Towards a theory of invention.” In The Social Construction of technological systems, Anniversary Edition. Wiebe E. Bijker, Thomas P. Hughes, and Trevor Pinch, eds. PP 155—182. Cambridge: MIT Press.


ABC News (2014). “CSIRO, University of Tasmania scientists fit tiny sensors onto honey bees to study behavior.” Online Article, <, > accessed 15 March 2014.

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