In general, workshops are brief gatherings with a group of people to discuss a specific topic and most of you have already attended such an event. In the field of Constructive Technology Assessment (CTA), workshops are organized as bridging event to stimulate the interaction between different groups of people. Specifically, in the technology development process, these people can be different stakeholders such as researchers and technology developers, companies, regulatory agencies or non-governmental organizations that have a certain interest in or concern about the technology. The main goal of these CTA workshops is the learning process of all participants, which his slightly different compared to other types of workshops. Participants are stimulated to acknowledge and understand the views of the other stakeholders and to become aware of ongoing technological and societal developments. Eventually, this learning process could translate into actions and interactions of stakeholders during the technology development process with the aim to increase the societal acceptance of the emerging technology and its embedding. Next to the interesting setting of a CTA workshop, it is also a good opportunity to meet potentially interesting collaborators.
The preparation of a CTA workshop is rather extensive. Often, the workshop is prepared carrying out interviews with relevant stakeholders to prepare so-called ‘pre-engagement’ activities, for example a multi-path map or a scenario, that are then used during the workshop to stimulate discussion [1-3]. A lighter version of such a workshop can be carried out by decreasing the preparation time and including preparatory tools, such as mapping exercises, in the workshop to construct them together with the participants. Additionally, the support of an experienced CTA practitioner is of great value who can help to identify interesting questions and topics for the CTA-lite workshop and who can help to facilitate the event.
As a first step, it is important to define the goal of the workshop and who should be invited. To invite participants from the own network is often easier as these interactions and links already exists. However, the background of the participants also has an influence on the discussion during the workshop: technology and innovation developers from universities or companies often rather focus on the technical aspects and have a different perception on societal aspects compared to potential end-users or non-governmental organizations. Here, it would also be interesting to invite participants outside the own network to add an extra point of view to the discussion such as the one of potential users. This has also the advantage that the workshop can be used to extend the own network and to form new collaborations. To stimulate and structure the discussion you can use additional tools such as multi-path maps, socio-technical or techno-moral scenarios during the workshop.
A CTA-lite workshop has already been organized by PhD students with the support of a TA expert. In one example, the workshop has been used as a pre-screening tool to gather information on alternative applications for a microfluidic bilayer platform. Therefore, actors with a broad variety of backgrounds were invited (technical and social scientists, companies, experts in regulations and IP) to enrich the discussion and give insights on different aspects and applications . In the other example, the workshop has been used to define new research questions and the next steps that are required to further develop the Young interferometer investigated in this project. In this workshop, mainly technical researchers and social scientists participated and consequently more technical aspects were discussed .
2. te Kulve, H. and A. Rip, Constructing Productive Engagement: Pre-engagement Tools for Emerging Technologies. Science and Engineering Ethics, 2011. 17(4): p. 699-714.
3. Robinson, D.K.R. and T. Propp, Multi-path mapping for alignment strategies in emerging science and technologies. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 2008. 75(4): p. 517-538.
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