Visions As Socio-Epistemic Practices – a Concept to Analyse the Effects of Visions

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 15:00
Location: Hörsaal BIG 1 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Andreas LOSCH, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Germany
Reinhard HEIL, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany
Christoph SCHNEIDER, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany
Technology Assessment is increasingly confronted with practices that create, influence and instrumentalise sociotechnical visions of the future. These visions and practices of „visioneering“ seem to have a constitutive role for innovation and transformation processes involving very heterogeneous technologies. Research in STS revealed insights into the efficacy of visions in such processes, but mainly in a retrospective manner. It is analytically difficult to investigate what exactly visions enable and effect in the specific practices and processes in the present. A focus on the normative implications and the scientific and technical feasibility of visionary ideas as in recent Vision Assessment is not enough for this. Increasingly analyses and orientation are sought after which show the efficacy of visions in processes because of new and enabling technologies (e.g. nanotechnology) and the great transformations (e.g. energy, climate change). This needs analytical approaches that transcend the usual text interpretations.

The contribution develops a theoretical-methodological concept to make such effects of visions analysable. In it, visions are conceptualised as socio-epistemic practices that are constitutive in social processes because they enable productions of new knowledge and new sociotechnical arrangements. Based on different examples – such as smart grid, Big Data and open source digital fabrication – the contribution proposes a typology which enables an assessment of the efficacy of visions in practices in different fields and phases of innovation and transformation processes. This concept shall enable the production of knowledge for TA practices, e.g. policy advice, about the efficacy of visions in processes which other established approaches with their focus on visionary ideas beyond their contexts of practice cannot deliver. Furthermore, through the perspective of the concept even TA becomes visible for reflection as a socio-epistemic practice in processes which influences visions.