The production, manipulation and exploitation of sociotechnical visions are increasingly important elements in innovation and transformation processes and their governance. This becomes especially obvious in new and emerging science and technologies (NEST) and great transformations of established sociotechnical systems. The formation, functions and effects of visions, however, often remain in the dark. Analytically, Technology Assessment (TA) responded to this with "Vision Assessment". But mostly the question remains open, how Vision Assessments can create knowledge that is policy relevant and can be fed into policy advice or public discourse in the context of TA.
So far, Vision Assessment concentrated its efforts on the analysis and evaluation of the contents of imaginations and media. However, for the analysis and evaluation of visions as constitutive elements in multi-dimensional innovation and transformation processes this perspective is insufficient. Therefore, the theoretical goal of the project is to advance the existing approaches in TA and Science & Technology Studies (STS) (e.g., Grunwald; Jasanoff; Nordmann; van Lente; von Gleich) towards a practical multi-dimensional theoretical concept. This concept sees visions as "socio-epistemic practices". With this, the entanglement of social processes and orders of knowledge shall become analytically accessible. Visions become comprehensive as constitutive elements in discourses and practices which enable and shape communications, actions and artifacts. The analytical gaze on visions as socio-epistemic practices is the prerequisite for the evaluation of practices of the purposeful generation and strategic use of visions in NEST technosciences and great sociotechnical transformations; sometimes this activity is named "visioneering". Furthermore, the role of TA in the formation of visions has to be reflected as well. Hence, Vision Assessment performed by TA experts is one of the socio-epistemic practices that shall be investigated. Although, this practice aims at analyzing and evaluating visions, it may have an influence on the visions scrutinized and their effects on the political system and public discourse. Therefore, it is the practical goal of the project to develop a type of Vision Assessment which reflects its contexts and effects and is useable in the various practices of TA.
Hence, the main topics of research are:
- The development of the theoretical concept of visions as socio-epistemic practices;
- Case specific differentiations of the concept for specific innovation and transformation processes and the construction of ideal types with the help of comparative case studies, for instance robotics, synthetic biology, human and animal enhancement, in-vitro-meat, nanotechnology, big data, smart grids/energy system and open design;
- Analysis of "visioneering" practices;
- Specification of the requirements Vision Assessment has to meet in order to be useful for TA and its purpose to inform politics and the public.