Situational Scenarios in Engineers' Practices of Inventing Socio-Technical Futures

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 15:15
Location: Hörsaal BIG 1 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Ingo SCHULZ-SCHAEFFER, University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany
Martin MEISTER, University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany
In our talk we want to present conceptual and empirical results from a research project funded by the DFG that investigates the role of future concepts as patterns of orientation in technology development. In this project we are focusing on situational scenarios, a kind of future concept that envisages the future reality of a new technology within its imagined field of application. Our aim is to understand how engineers are guided by ideas about the future in their actual work of developing new technology. The results of our research on situational scenarios in the field of ubiquitous computing show that there are several ways how engineers derive technological or social requirements from the socio-technical settings depicted by situational scenarios. Some lead to rather specific technological solutions for very particular applications while others result in generic solutions for a broad range of possible uses. Situational scenarios on the one hand provide technology oriented guidance, meaning that engineers derive technological features from considering a scenario. On the other hand they provide application oriented guidance: In this case the scenario provides the frame of reference for deriving the features of promising contexts of use from the imagined new technology.

We believe this kind of research to provide a basis for identifying promising ways of involving societal stakeholders in the process of making the future. Knowledge about how ideas about the future actually influence the work of engineers is a preliminary to any attempt of employing future concepts as a method of design or participation. Thus, in this talk our focus is on scenarios as they actually occur as patterns of orientation within the engineers’ own practices of work rather than on scenarios as a dedicated design methodology or method of user participation.