Science Social 04: "The 'How' of 'How-To?'"

"The 'How' of 'How-To?'"—Handbooks and Knowledge Democracy with Mathias Grote and Elaine Leong

Some people use them as doorstops, a few even for weightlifting, and others actually read them! In this podcast episode we talk about books—or specifically, handbooks and manuals. From cooking to chemistry, these seemingly simple objects provide knowledge in a structured and standardized order. Yet despite their ubiquity and centuries-long history, many of us today are more likely to sit down in front of our computer and Google "How To...".Science Social podcast logo

In this episode of Science Social, host Stephanie Hood chats with historians Mathias Grote and Elaine Leong about manuals, handbooks, and how we've gathered, framed, and used knowledge on a daily basis. Are handbooks still relevant when we have almost-instant access to YouTube tutorials? Is the cellphone the modern equivalent of a manual? How has knowledge been democratized, today and in the past? Are handbooks always neutral information? And how do we define what knowledge is reliable, especially in the digital realm?

This podcast episode is based on the Learning by the Book project and edited British Journal for the History of Science (BJHS) volume by Angela Creager, Mathias Grote, and Elaine Leong. It has received funding from the German Historical Institute in Washington, Princeton University, and the MPIWG. Many thanks also go to the British Society for the History of Science for making the book volume open access, and to Simon Werrett and team at the BJHS for the pleasant and smooth production process of the book!



Produced by the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science; Theme song by Podington Bear, CC NY-NC 3.0