Hoffman, Steve

Assistant ProfessorSociology

Contact Information

Mailing Address: 
3359 Mississauga Road
Postal Code: 
L5L 1C6
Steve Hoffman


Professor Hoffman received his Ph.D. in sociology from Northwestern University. His areas of interest include social theory, science and technology studies, cultural sociology, political sociology, and comparative ethnography.

Hoffman’s scholarship links context, interpretation, and interaction into holistic, multi-level explanations of specific strips of social action. He is working on three research projects, each of which deals with the cultural politics of knowledge production. First, he has been publishing a series of articles, book chapters, and essays based on a comparative ethnography of Artificial Intelligence labs. This project documents how university scientists are navigating the increasingly fraught waters of commercial relevance, societal impact, and academic capitalism. Second, Hoffman has been developing a general re-thinking of the social construction of reality for 21st century social science based on his studies of the “practical use of other realities.” His empirical cases range from simulation techniques used in sports training to environmental disaster management. Third, he is working on a project that documents how knowledge about large-scale disasters get mobilized for institutional change. His current case focuses on the impact of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster on subsequent German and American energy policies. His publications appear in numerous sociology and transdisciplinary venues, including Science, Technology, & Human Values, Social Studies of ScienceCultural SociologyPolitics and SocietyLaw and Society Review, Social Anthropology/Anthropologie Sociale, and Sociological Theory

Professor Hoffman’s pedagogical philosophy rests on the principle of “learning by mistakes.” As the economist Kenneth Boulding stated, “Nothing fails like success because we don't learn from it. We learn only from failure.” Hoffman attempts to create an intellectually-safe environment where mistakes, curiosity, and speculation are all vital features of long-term learning. In the 2018-19 academic year, Hoffman is teaching courses on classical social theory, the sociology of disaster, science and technology studies, and a seminar on sustainability, risk, and science-in-the-making.

Selected Publications

Steve G. Hoffman and Paul Durlak. 2018. “The Shelf Life of a Disaster: Post-Fukushima Policy Change in the United States and Germany.” Sociological Forum. DOI: 10.1111/socf.12419

Steve G. Hoffman. 2017. “Managing Ambiguities at the Edge of Knowledge: Research Strategy and Artificial Intelligence Labs in an Era of Academic Capitalism.” Science, Technology, & Human Values. 42, 4: 703-740.

Steve G. Hoffman. 2016. “The Practical Use of Other Realities: Taking Berger and Luckmann into the Wild.” Cultural Sociology. 10, 1: 109-124.

Steve G. Hoffman. 2015. “Thinking Science with Thinking Machines: The Multiple Realities of Basic and Applied Knowledge in a Research Border Zone.” Social Studies of Science, 45, 2: 242-269.

Steve G. Hoffman. 2011. “The New Tools of the Science Trade: Contested Knowledge Production and the Conceptual Vocabularies of Academic Capitalism.” Social Anthropology/Anthropologie Sociale. 19, 4: 439-462. 

Steve G. Hoffman. 2006. “How to Punch Someone and Stay Friends: An Inductive Theory of Simulation.” Sociological Theory. 24, 2: 170-193.


Theory; Qualitative Research Methods; Science, Technology, and Knowledge; Cultural Sociology; Organizations; Political Sociology; Social Policy
Ph.D., Northwestern University