Rabinow and Bennett developed a diagnostic mode of engagement with SynBERC. This form of upstream engagement was not technical criticism. Tacitly, this is what SynBERC and the NSF wanted, even though a refusal of technical criticism had been the agreed premise of engagement. Following Max Weber and not Niklas Luhmann technical criticism was not our pursuit, although it was part of the field of objects of our inquiry.
We are anthropologists and again following Max Weber the form of engagement was to engage questions of cultural significance encountered during the course of detailed observation, adjacency and inquiry, which our diagnostic equipment was designed to identify and sharpen.
This diagnostic sharpening helped us to observe SynBERC’s blind spots relative to its environments. It also aided us in observing how the organization itself was proceeding to be organized: how information circulated or didn’t etc., in short how what is good and true got to count as so and how criticism was either accepted, silenced or more often ignored.
The diagnostic objective was the observation and reconstruction of ethical problems. This is what we were funded by the US government to do. Our auto-critique of our mode is that once we were forced to acknowledge to ourselves that the mode we refused was actually what our funders and potential collaborators wanted, we continued nevertheless to play the game, which on exiting we can recognize as double. As such we must ask ourselves that knowing we were playing a sanctioned (by SynBERC and NSF) double game, were we acting in bad faith?