Journal of Studies for Science, Technology, and Medicine, 2002, No. 3,
The Invisible Technique:
The Socio-Technical History of Cultivating Wax Apples
How did wax apple, a tropical fruit, get replanted in the petite farming system of Taiwan in the mid-1960s and become the well-known “Black Pearls” in recent years? This paper explores this magical transformation by identifying the techniques involved, the social contexts behind such technical innovations, and the peculiar implications contained in these practice-oriented cultivating techniques.
In fact, there have been many “farming-masters” since the very early industrialization in Taiwan. I found some unique properties in the cultivation of wax apples, including “inscription–in-the-body”, “varieties-absorbing,” and two others derived from the above, namely, “difficult-to-copy” and “declining-by-diffusion.” I also compare the two kinds of knowledge—the “experiences” and “techniques” of farmers vs. the “experiments” and “theories” of agricultural experts, and analyze role-interaction in these two groups of actors.
In sum, the techniques are “invisible” in two senses. First of all, due to certain social conditions, farming is considered to involve labor rather than techniques. Secondly, the techniques are literally invisible even after we unveil the effects of those social conditions. They are inscribed in the body so that there is an intimate relationship between farmers and techniques, which is beyond description.
Keywords: technique, technical innovation, farming-master, wax apples