385.5 Protentions as structures of selection in social systems: The role of anticipated futures in the case of a scientific innovation

Thursday, August 2, 2012: 5:18 PM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Robert J. SCHMIDT , Department of Sociology, Technical University Berlin, Berlin, Germany
Anticipated futures play an important role in processes of innovation. The social sciences can focus on the systemness, the contextual nature of these futures. This presentation aims to discuss an evolutionary approach to innovation according to the systems theory of Niklas Luhmann and focuses on the importance of protentions in the phase of selection.

In the first part the concept of protentions as specific structures of social systems is presented. According to Alfred Schuetz in social actions there are protentions as anticipated futures shaping plans and intentions. From a systems theoretical perspective you can see firstly that these positive or negative prospects depend upon societal logics like the scientific production of knowledge or economic production of value, specific markets, organizations or other contextual settings. Secondly you can describe the specific role of these structures in the process of innovation. After the systemic construction of variation, protentions as structures of the specific system are of crucial importance for the selection of these.

In the second part this theoretical understanding of protentions is illustrated by a case of  radical innovation in catalysis-basic-research. This process began on the meso-level of a single research organization, depending on the specific organizational protentions in the phase of selection. At the end it was an important innovation for the whole research on catalysis, which can be described as a result of anticipated futures in this scientific field. This example shows how important specific structures according to systemically anticipated futures are in the enduring process of re-production in social life.