Discussion Papers / Institute of Technology Futures

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The Enduring Quest for the Future and Its Consequences for Scientific Inquiery

Alexandra Hausstein – No. 07 | March 2020 – KIT, Karlsruhe – ISSN: 2366-553X
Cover Discussionpaper No 07 The enduring Quest for the Future Alexandra Hausstein

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This paper analyses the social quest for the future and the function of its associated futurizing practices. Specifically, it discusses the role of the social sciences and the humanities for understanding these practices under conditions of intense precarity and uncertainty. This is weighed against the need to secure the future as an existential good along with associated political and economic attempts to colonize the future as a means and resource of further securing positions that are often already unhelpfully entrenched. In light of the complex interplay between these factors, this paper ultimately aims to conceptualize a role for the social sciences and the humanities as advocates for a more inclusive, open-ended form of futurizing. It is the argument of this paper that such a conceptualisation would allow for the maximum number of actors, make visible the diversity of futures and protect the essential status of the future as a place of unbounded potential and scope as well as its unavailability.

Bemerkungen zur Technikgeschichte imaginärer Dinge

Kurt Möser – Nr. 06 | Mai 2018 – KIT, Karlsruhe – ISSN: 2366-553X

History of fascination & fascinated history: subjective approaches to the history of technology

Rolf-Ulrich Kunze – Nr. 05 | Dezember 2017 – KIT, Karlsruhe – ISSN: 2366-553X

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The essay investigates the question how the themes of fascination and subjectivity have found their way into user-centered research in the history of technology and in museums. Then some key features of subjective fascination as a historical resource are being discussed. Following a definition of fascination history and a typology of fascination as a historical motivation, the article offers two perspectives on the topic: (1) the psychological question of artifacts coming physically close to us; (2) the history of science perspective about theoretical concepts of technology that are both anti-subjective and anti-motivational. The presentation of selected types of sources, including novels, family photos and oral history, is not only intended to show the potential offered by the study of fascination and subjectivity for the history of technological culture. The intention is also to promote the further exploitation of these sources as resources. Following a summary, a practical proposal for the creation of a basis for consensus in the form of the ,Historik’ by Jörn Rüsen is formulated.

Wie argumentieren Rechtspopulisten?

David Lanius – Nr. 04 | September 2017 – KIT, Karlsruhe – ISSN: 2366-553X

Technikfolgenabschätzung von soziotechnischen Zukünften

Andreas Lösch et al. – Nr. 03 | Dezember 2016 – KIT, Karlsruhe – ISSN: 2366-553X

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Lösch, Andreas; Böhle, Knud; Coenen, Christopher; Dobroc, Paulina; Ferrari, Arianna; Heil, Reinhard; Hommrich, Dirk; Sand, Martin; Schneider, Christoph; Aykut, Stefan; Dickel, Sascha; Fuchs, Daniela; Gransche, Bruno; Grunwald, Armin; Hausstein, Alexandra; Kastenhofer, Karen; Konrad, Kornelia; Nordmann, Alfred; Schaper-Rinkel, Petra; Scheer, Dirk; Schulz-Schaeffer, Ingo; Torgersen, Helge; Wentland, Alexander

Visions of technology, future scenarios, guiding visions (Leitbilder) represent imaginations of future states of affairs that play a functional role in processes of technological research, development and innovation – e.g. as a means to create attention, communication, coordination or for the strategic exertion of influence. Since a couple of years there is a growing attention for such imaginations of futures in politics, the economy, research and civil society. This trend concerns Technology Assessment (TA) as an observer of these processes and a consultant on the consequences of technology and innovation. TA faces increasing demands to assess imaginations of futures that circulate in the present and to participate in shaping these through scenarios or foresight. More than ever, this raises the question, which propositions can be made based on these imaginations by TA and how this can be used in advisory practices. Imaginations of futures are relevant for TA not as predictions but in their significance and effectiveness in the present, which need to be understood and assessed. Contents: This discussion paper outlines how present significance and effects of imagined futures in technological research and innovation processes can be conceived of and analyzed. In this paper, all forms of imaginations of technology futures will be called ‘sociotechnical futures’ because technological developments and social changes are interwoven through them. In this paper we discuss (1) why TA should analyze sociotechnical futures, (2) how such analyzes can grasp the societal conditions (e.g. power structures) that are expressed in the imagined futures and how these become effective in processes of technology development, communication, decision making etc. We raise the question (3) which self-reflexive positioning or possible realignment of TA is needed because of the increased concern with assessing and even co-producing sociotechnical futures by TA. The latter is often demanded regarding the increasing attention by politics and publics to imaginations of futures with wide temporal and spatial reach. Addressee of this paper is the TA community in a broad sense. The aim is to sensitize colleagues for the topic and its challenges, to consolidate discussions and to provide theoretical and methodical suggestions for research in TA and related advisory practices with respect to sociotechnical futures. The origin of this paper has been the workshop ‘The present of technological futures – theoretical and methodical challenges for Technology Assessment’ (March 2016, Karlsruhe), in which all of the paper’s authors participated. The contents of this discussion paper are preliminary results that shall initiate and guide further discussions.

Fallacies in Scenario Reasoning

Gregor Betz – Nr. 02 | Mai 2016 KIT – ISSN: 2366-553X

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Policy-makers frequently face substantial uncertainties and are required to cope with alternative scenarios that depict possible future developments. This paper argues that scenario reasoning is prone to suffer from characteristic mistakes. Probabilistic fallacies quantify uncertainties in an illegitimate way. Possibilistic fallacies systematically underestimate the full range of uncertainty, neglect relevant possibilities or attempt to represent a space of possibilities in an oversimplified way. Decision-theoretic fallacies, finally, fail to take the full range of uncertainties into account when justifying decisions, or misinterpret possibility statements by assigning them a special decision-theoretic meaning.

The proliferation of the innovation discourse: On the formation, semantics and social function of the innovation concept

Alexandra Hausstein and Armin Grunwald – Nr. 01 | December 2015 – KIT, Karlsruhe – ISSN: 2366-553X