Social construction of technology coming of age: new challenges and opportunities ahead

– Workshop in Trondheim - June 2014

In 1984, Trevor Pinch and Wiebe Bijker published their seminal paper "The social construction of facts and artifacts - or how the sociology of science and the sociology of technology might benefit each other" in Social Studies of Science. Thus, in 2014, we looked back at 30 years of scholarly efforts of studying social construction of technology through the SCOT model and related approaches. This workshop was meant as a celebration but also as an invitation to look forward. How should we assess the achievements of social construction of technology efforts? What are the promising avenues for the future of technology studies? Where are the theoretical challenges and opportunities that will take the field forward?

The SCOT model together with the social shaping of technology, large technical systems and actor network theory emerged in the early 1980s to mark the development of what used to be called ‘the new sociology of technology' (now more commonly is put under the label of ‘technology studies').  This gave a boost to social science and humanities' approaches to the analysis of the making and use of technology, making technology studies a fairly large and vibrant field of research.

The workshop was intended to serve three main purposes. First, to provide a retrospect on the emergence of the social construction of technology approach. Second, the workshop should engage with assessments of what has been achieved during the 30 years that have passed since the publication of the initial SCOT paper. Third, we hoped that the workshop could be an arena for debates about the way forward. What are the exciting new theories and concept that may guide technology studies in the years to come?

The workshop consisted of a mix of invited talks, presentation of papers, and poster sessions. Keynote speakers included Wiebe E. Bijker, Trevor J. Pinch, Vivian A. Lagesen, Nelly Oudshoorn, Ranjit Singh and Robin Williams.

We plan to use the workshop as a basis for publication of a special issue and/or edited volume.

The workshop was organised by Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Centre for Technology and Society, Department of Interdisciplinary Studies of Culture.

Organisers: Professor Vivian A. Lagesen and Professor Knut H. Sørensen.

Talks and presentations

  • Ranjit Singh, Cornell University: "Back to the Future: Situating the 'T' in 'STS'"
  • Wiebe E. Bijker, Maastricht University, and Trevor J. Pinch, Cornell University: "Reactions and Reflections"
  • Robin Williams, University of Edinburgh: "Still under construction"
  • Nelly Oudshoorn, University of Twente: "How users still matter"
  • Vivian A. Lagesen, NTNU: "The technological construction of gender"
  • Wiebe E. Bijker, Maastricht University: "SCOT and politics—SCOT for development?"
  • Trevor J. Pinch, Cornell University: "SCOT and Sound Studies"
  • Gretchen Gano, Arizona State University: "The Megamachine: Lewis Mumford's Vision of Technological society and Implications for (participatory) Technology Assessment"
  • Håkon Fyhn and Jens Røyrvik, NTNU: «An anthropology of technology»
  • Christian Clausen, Aalborg University Copenhagen and Yutaka Yoshinaka (Technical University of Denmark): "From social construction of technology to staging sociotechnical spaces for design
  •  Michael McGovern, University of Cambridge: "Stack, pacs, and system hacks: Handheld calculators as an alternative history of personal computing"
  •  Kristine Ask, NTNU: "Playing with UnReal Lives: The construction of gender and virtuality in online games"
  • Klara Benda, Georgia Institute of Technology: "Making space for the human mind in social accounts of innovation: a distributed cognition account of the design of an open-source software platform for higher education"
  • Barton Friedland, Warwick Business School: "Agency, practices of leadership, and the roles of computational objects"
  • Merete Lie, NTNU: "Medical Imaging and the Domestication of Assisted Reproductive Technologies"
  • Anja Johansen, NTNU: "Critical engagement with science and technology in art and STS"
  • Ulrik Jørgensen, Aalborg University Copenhagen: "The design challenge to technology studies – on emergence, agency and anticipation"
  • Elena Parmiggiani, Eric Monteiro and Petter Grytten Almklov, NTNU: "Where Oil and Gas Find LoVe"
  • Eduard Aibar and Peter Dunajcsik-Maxigas: "Closure and stabilization in open source artefacts"
  •  Lea Fuenfschilling, Eawag, Duebendorf, and Bernhard Truffer, University of Lucerne: "A dynamic approach towards socio-technical change – Institutions, actors and technologies in interaction"
  •  Nils Markusson, Lancaster University and Katharine Farrell, Humboldt University of Berlin: "Constitutive tensions in geoengineering technology discourse: Explaining ambivalence differentials"
  • Philippa Boyd, University of Reading: "SCOT, construction work and the uptake of low carbon technologies"
  • Marianne Ryghaug and Helen Jøsok Gansmo, NTNU: "What can we learn from the socialization of the electric car in Norway? Thoughts on technology development, technology citizenship and public engagement with technology"
  • Felix Tilmann Vahle, Lund University, and Marc Dijk, Maastricht University: "How ‘Elektromobilität' differs from ‘Électromobilité' – An extended social constructivist perspective on electric mobility in Germany and France"
  • Ivana Damnjanović, University of Belgrade: "Are relevant social groups created equal – social construction of public transport in Belgrade"
  • Klaus S. Friesenbichler, Austrian Institute of Economic Research: "Smart grids as a social construct – Capital formation in the electricity sector of the EU"
  • Petter Almklow, NTNU Social Research: "Differences that makes a difference and machines of differentiation"
  • Søsser Brodersen and Hanne Lindegaard, Aalborg University: "'Inscripting Ability' –  Actor/artefact relations in design of Assistive Technologies"
  • Johan Gärdebo, KTH Stockholm: "The Social Construction of Remote Sensing Satellites"
  • Sara Heidenreich, NTNU: "Outreaching, outsourcing, and disembedding: How offshore wind scientists consider their engagement with the public"
  • Vidar Hepsø and Marianne Ryghaug, NTNU: "Understanding technology qualification and development as a game of ‘Snakes and ladders'?"
  • Oskar Jansson, Olof Ljungström and Daniel Normark, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm: "Negotiating nominees: stabilizing a routine in appointing the Nobel prize in medicine or physiology"
  • Helga Sigurdardottir, Nord-Trøndelag University College and NTNU: "Preparing teachers to apply DGBL in education"
  • Knut H. Sørensen, NTNU: "Pragmatic constructivism"
  • Thomas Østerlie, NTNU Social Research: "Technological development and epistemic objects in offshore petroleum production"
  • Nina Baron, Aarhus University Copenhagen: "An ANT analysis of a LAR (Local handling of rainwater) project in a housing cooperative in Copenhagen
  • Marius Korsnes, NTNU: "Contested visions of China's offshore wind industry"
  • Håkon B. Stokland, NTNU: "The New Scandinavian Wolves: Preserving by Transforming in the Age of Biodiversity"
  • Ivar J. Tunheim, NTNU: "Understanding the road as a social constructivist phenomenon" Trine Unander, NTNU: "The Social Construction of Monster Pylons"
  • Heidrun Åm, NTNU: "Analyzing the co-production of nanotechnology regulations"