This profile explores the dynamics of science, technology and society by focusing on their practices, interactions, institutional and material arrangements, and their dynamic co-evolution. Key questions include the following: How is knowledge production shaped by its concrete practices and by the material and conceptual resources (instruments, models, laboratory settings) of its time, in a particular place or discipline? How do science and society shape each other? Which patterns follow socio-technical change? What are the possibilities and limitations of governing socio-technical change? How can these insights be applied to concrete innovation processes, such as supporting a more sustainable energy system?
This profile moves from a detailed view of processes of knowledge production on the laboratory floor, to a broader perspective. It addresses how socio-technical systems are embedded in particular ways of usage, production and regulation and how socio-technical change may come about. Finally, we will expand historically and geographically, in order to better understand how practices, arrangements and the dynamics of science, technology and society are situated in time and space. This cluster is deliberately interdisciplinary, drawing on the perspectives and tools of philosophy, sociology, history and geography.
Philosophy of Science and Technology Relations
To understand the dynamics of science, technology and society, we need to know what scientific practices are like. This course aims at a better understanding of the internal dynamics of scientific research in the context of technological applications, with a focus on epistemological issues. The approach of this course is a Capita Selecta in the so-called Philosophy of Science in Practice. The philosophy of science in practice (PSP) is a relatively new branch on the tree of the philosophy of science.
Some salient aspects of its general approach are:
- PSP is concerned with not only the acquisition and validation of knowledge, but also its use. Its concern is not only about how pre-existing knowledge gets applied to practical ends, but also about how knowledge itself is fundamentally shaped by its intended use. PSP aims to build meaningful bridges between the philosophy of science and the newer fields of philosophy of technology and philosophy of medicine; and provide fresh perspectives for the latter fields.
- It emphasises how human artefacts, such as conceptual models and laboratory instruments, mediate between theories and the world. It seeks to elucidate the role that these artefacts play in the shaping of scientific practice.
- Its view of scientific practice must not be distorted by lopsided attention to certain areas of science. The traditional focus on fundamental physics is supplemented by attention to other fields such as economics and other social/human sciences, the engineering sciences, and the medical sciences.
- In its methodology, it is crucial to have a productive interaction between philosophical reasoning and a study of actual scientific practices, past and present. This provides a strong rationale for history-and-philosophy of science as an integrated discipline, and also for inviting the participation of practicing scientists, engineers and policymakers.
The attractiveness of this new and prolific field is its openness to new philosophical ideas and approaches. Moreover, philosophy of science in practice aims at results that are not only relevant for the philosophical discipline itself, but also for a better understanding these practices from the perspectives of scientists, engineers, policy-makers and many others.
Dynamics and Governance of Socio-Technical Change
Understanding the patterns and dynamics of socio-technical change is crucial for the diagnosis of past, present and potential future developments as well as for governance and organising innovation. In this course we focus on the co-evolutionary dynamics of technology and society based on an understanding of technology as embedded in specific organisational, institutional and social arrangements, such as particular ways of using, producing, innovating and regulating a technology.
We will reflect on the implications of such a mutual dependence of technological and societal structures –for the regular ‘working’ of socio-technical systems, for innovation and socio-technical change and for possibilities and limitations of governing socio-technical change. ‘Governance’ implies that we are not primarily interested in government and policy action, but that heterogeneous societal actors, such as firms, public organisations, citizens and social movements have a role in socio-technical change as well.
In this course, we will read and discuss literature on the dynamics and patterns of socio-technical change, focusing in particular on approaches drawing on insights from STS and evolutionary theories (e.g. socio-technical systems and regimes, multi-level dynamics). Furthermore, we will discuss possibilities and limitations for governing these processes and learn about concrete governance approaches and their application that have been developed on the basis of these insights, such as Transition Management or Strategic Niche Management. Turning the perspective, we will furthermore investigate the role of science and technology for governance and policy-making.
Spatial and Temporal Dynamics of Science, Technology and Society
The dynamics of science and technology are situated in time and space. Their movement through these dimensions informs both their practical character and development, whether at the local and short-term level of a laboratory or the extensive and long-term level of global travel and exchange. This course takes the spatio-temporal geography of science, technology and society seriously: not just as providing a context in which science and technology take place, but as both a constituting element of their dynamics and an evolving consequence thereof. Topics covered will include:
- the ways in which geography and development over time are generally treated in philosophical, sociological and historical studies of science and technology - and the analytical consequences thereof;
- the role of a laboratory's internal geography (its architecture and furnishings) and 'external' setting in the production of knowledge;
- the long-term development of science as a mutually constitutive element of global history, with a special focus on imperialism and globalisation
- the history and future of innovation in global context, with a critical examination of '(post-) industrial revolutions'
Learn more about the first year of the Master's programme Philosophy of Science, Technology and Society programme at the University of Twente: