Democratic Energy Futures through Real World Experiments? Proactionary Innovation and the Virtues of Nonknowledge

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 14:15
Location: Hörsaal 34 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Matthias GROSS, Urban and Environmental Sociology, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ, Leipzig, Germany
Public and political expectations targeted at ecology and technology call for more safety, certainty, or precaution. However, empirical research delivers insights on real world decision processes and everyday “experimental” practices that increasingly uncover how actors creatively cope with unavoidable uncertainty and ignorance and thus circumvent conventional approaches to risk assessments or classical evidence-based policies. This raises new questions on the attribution of responsibilities, ethical concerns, and the organization of scientific knowledge production in general. Put differently, whereas official rhetoric trumpets precaution and safety, the real world seems more entangled with what has been termed the proactionary principle or the proactionary imperative. In order to frame possible avenues towards innovation in a democratic society in the face of increasing uncertainty and ignorance, I will use the concept of real world experiments to highlight some of the conditions and processes that foster innovations in face of socio-ecological struggles building on empirical examples from renewable energy operation and the invitation of stakeholders to laboratory-like settings. Experimental processes in society can then be conceptualized as “real” experiments and laboratory activities as merely temporarily subordinated components of the larger experiment.