Images, concepts and visions of future technical developments, that is, "possible technology futures", are ubiquitous in social discourse. They shape ideas of the technically feasible as well as specific innovation paths. At the same time they influence applications and user behaviour. Even at the meta-level of current controversies and debates, ideas of technical futures are continually being negotiated. They shape research and development in the engineering sciences, which develop technology not for present, but for future societies, users and markets. Images and Visions of the technological future are constructed e.g. in the form of the visions of nanotechnology or as the future of energy supply and mobility. They migrate into social debates, initiate, structure and frame opportunities and risk communication, influence public technology perception, promote research and political decisions. On the other hand, socially debated and constructed futures migrate into technology design and have consequences for the wider agenda of research and development. Communicating about social and technical futures, thus, shapes the co-evolution of technology and society.
We refer to the above-mentioned object of investigation as "Technology Futures".
Technology Futures are ideas, narratives, discourses, visions about future social developments in which technology plays a recognizable role. Technology Futures are thus not a future of technology as such, but the future of human beings and society in which future technologies will play a central role. They can cover all areas of technology, such as future mobility, energy supply of the future, water management of the future, the control of complex technical, social or virtual systems, or the future of the human-machine-interaction. In our research program, we examine technological society and present future discourses in a polyperspective, transdisciplinary approach.
Workings groups are currently established on topics such as:
- Discourse analysis as methods for investigating technology futures (involved disciplines: history, science communication, media studies, sociology (ITAS), philosophy)
- Riskantes Nichtwissen – The Risk of Not-Knowing/ Risky state of not knowing (involved disciplines: history, philosophy, sociology (ITAS), economics, meteorology and climate research)
- Judgement Aggregation meets Argumentation (philosophy, informatics, economics)