Conference 2011: Governing Futures. Imagining, Negotiating & Taming Emerging Technosciences

Over the past decades, emerging technosciences became inextricably entangled with both visions of specific societal futures and the ways these are, and can be, imagined. Analysts point towards the growing use of a rhetoric of promises, expectations and hopes when narrating, assessing and legitimising technoscientific change. The omnipresent vocabulary of emergence and novelty, which has become characteristic for technoscientific domains particularly to attract large scale funding and the shift from knowledge to innovation as objects to be governed (e.g. the EU’s “Innovation Union 2020”), are but two indicators for wider sociotechnical changes.
At the same time we can also observe a change in practices how science, society and policy makers try to imagine, anticipate, colonize and tame futures. This becomes visible in a proliferation of contexts and modes of anticipatory work, such as scenario development, foresight exercises, or ethical assessments. Thus, we have to ask both how technoscientific futures govern contemporary societies and how the latter try to govern these futures.
There has been a flourishing of academic work participating in and analysing the processes and practises of doing and undoing futures. So far, however, efforts have remained often fragmented. It thus seems promising to draw together work on different aspects and investigate them from a comparative perspective. Particular focus will be put on …

  1. the concrete discursive and material practices through which technoscientific futures are produced, distributed, assessed, negotiated, enforced or discarded;
  2. the conditions of access that define who participates in what ways in these processes and especially the governance of technoscientific futures;
  3. the importance of cultural differences and the ‘travelling’ of practices and futures across different ‘boundaries’ (disciplinary, between science, policy and society, or national/cultural);
  4. the role of social sciences and humanities in participating in, pushing or simply commenting on these future-related activities; and finally …
  5. what does all this mean for the development of technosciences and societies as well as their relations.

This conference will address these issues above and seeks to combine advanced empirical analyses with broader theoretical reflection. By gathering research that addresses different regional-historical/cultural contexts, different methodological approaches and different technoscientific fields ranging from current emerging technologies such as nanotechnology, synthetic biology to the futures that emerged around past technologies (e.g. nuclear energy), the conference’s explicit goal is to open up comparative perspectives and to contribute to a broader understanding of contemporary efforts to govern futures.

Main Conference Themes:

  • Practices of creating, negotiating and managing technoscientific futures
  • Participation in the imagination and creation of technoscientific futures (e.g. through public engagement)
  • Impact of economies of promises/futures on knowledge production and innovation processes
  • Role of social sciences and humanities in co-producing technoscientific futures (incl. debates concerning diverse methods of anticipating and assessing futures)
  • Comparative dimensions in the production and distribution of socio-technical imaginaries and futures (especially tensions between the global and the local)

More information and program: conference website