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Arche-writing and data-production in theory-oriented scientific practice: the case of free-viewing as experimental system to test the temporal correlation hypothesis

Abstract

Data production in experimental sciences depends on localised experimental systems, but the epistemic properties of data transcend the contingencies of the processes that produce them. Philosophers often believe that experimental systems instantiate but do not produce the epistemic properties of data. In this paper, we argue that experimental systems' local functioning entails intrinsic capacities to produce the epistemic properties of data. We develop this idea by applying Derrida's model of arche-writing to study a case of theory-oriented experimental practice. Derrida's model relativises or dissolves the conceptual distinction between the moment of data production and a subsequent moment of data dissemination. It thus has consequences for understanding both data production (despite being intrinsically local, data production a priori generates transferrable and modellable information) and data dissemination (when modelling information, researchers needs to refer this information to the context of its production). We study a case of data production in a non-exploratory experimental system designed to test a pre-existing hypothesis in visual neuroscience. A case of theory-oriented experimental practice should allow us to identify the autonomous functioning of experimental systems in data production more clearly, insofar as it allows us to study the limits of pre-existing theory in the activities of these systems. We suggest that pre-existing concepts, hypotheses and theories condition the relevance but not the production of experimental data.

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Notes

  1. This objection was raised by an anonymous reviewer of an earlier version of this paper.

  2. The literature on experimental reproducibility usually distinguishes between exact or direct replication of an experiment (as close as possible to the original conditions under which it was conducted) and conceptual or indirect replication (which deliberately introduces variations in experimental variables or methods to control for experimental artefactuality or test the generalizability of results) (Crandall & Sherman, 2016; Drummond, 2009; Fidler & Wilcox, 2018; Goodman, Fanelli, & Ioannidis, 2016; Schmidt, 2009). It is worth noting that the terminology ("replication", "reproduction", “repetition”) is not consistent accross the literature (see Atmanspacher, 2016). For philosophical debates on experimental reproducibility, see Romero (2019), Leonelli (2018), Guttinger (2020), and the papers collected in Atmanspacher (2016).

  3. For example, the use of a particular animal species. The free-viewing experiments that we analyse below (sections 5 and 6) use capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella), while previous relevant results (Friedman-Hill et al., 2000; Maldonado et al., 2000) had been obtained using rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta). It so happens that, in 2000, it was difficult to find rhesus monkeys in Chile (the experiments with Rhesus monkeys had been carried out in the USA). The personality of capuchin monkeys poses particular challenges in training and forces to shorten work sessions (Babul, 2020; Maldonado, 2019). Among other things, the challenges posed by capuchins monkeys made it impossible to include systematically, during a work session, measurements of the receptive field of the neurons recorded during the free-viewing tasks. These limitations entailed that one of the research's original objectives, which consisted of comparing a neuron's classical receptive field with its behaviour in more natural ecological conditions (in free-viewing), was left incomplete.

  4. For instance, it can be argued that the unintended change of animal species in the free-viewing experiments (see the previous footnote) eventually provides information that reinforces the interspecies validity of the results.

  5. The authors are currently working on a paper about knowledge integration in these two experimental paradigms to test the TCH.

  6. The electrical activity of neurons’ spines occurs at a micrometre-scale, whereas the field potentials occur at a millimetre-scale; experimenters need both to find correlations between the extracellular fluctuations (LFPs) and the spiking behaviour of individual neurons.

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Acknowledgement

The authors would like to thank Pedro Maldonado and Neurosistemas Laboratory staff at the Biomedical Neuroscience Institute, Facultad de Medicina, Universidad de Chile. Matías Bascuñán, Sabina Leonelli and Nicolás Trujillo made very helpful comments on previous versions of this paper. We are especially grateful to two anonymous reviewers, whose suggestions led to substantial improvements to the paper’s form and content.

Funding

ANID-PIA SOC180039, ANID-Fondecyt 1210091, ANID-Fondecyt 1180320, ANID-Fondecyt 1180129 (Government of Chile).

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All authors contributed to the study conception and design. Material preparation, data collection and analysis were performed by Juan Manuel Garrido. The first draft of themanuscript was written by Juan Manuel Garrido and all authors commented on previous versions of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Juan Manuel Garrido Wainer.

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Garrido Wainer, J.M., Fardella, C. & Espinosa Cristia, J.F. Arche-writing and data-production in theory-oriented scientific practice: the case of free-viewing as experimental system to test the temporal correlation hypothesis. HPLS 43, 70 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40656-021-00418-2

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Keywords

  • Data-production
  • Experimental systems
  • Arche-writing
  • Theory-oriented experimental practice
  • Visual neuroscience