Institute for Technology Assessment and  Systems Analysis (ITAS)

Socio-technical futures as socio-epistemic practices. An analytical matrix for technology assessment

Project description

In processes of technology development, innovation, and transformation, socio-technical futures (e.g., in the form of imaginaries, visions, scenarios, prototypes) play an increasingly important role in the orientation of communication, decisions, and actions in science and society. But how can the impact of futures on the processes be analyzed, evaluated, and shaped for governing the processes?

The core-funded focus project further develops concepts and methods of vision assessment in a systematic way. It follows on from the research carried out in the project “Visions as socio-epistemic practices” and is an essential component of the conceptual and methodological basic research conducted by ITAS on hermeneutic TA and vision assessment of technology futures.

The focus of research is on the systematic extension of the vision assessment methodology with the aim of developing an analytical matrix for technology assessment (TA) and related research in science & technology studies (STS). This matrix should be applicable to the analysis, evaluation, and design of the most diverse forms, contexts, and process dynamics of socio-technical futures. The analytical research focus of vision assessment on visions as socio-epistemic practices established in the previous project forms the starting point. This makes it possible to analyze and assess the social and epistemic functionality and impact of futures on innovation and transformation processes from an empirical social science perspective. The research thus links perspectives of hermeneutic TA with STS perspectives on the shaping of science and society by current futures.

In the project “Socio-technical futures as socio-epistemic practices”, the project team, in collaboration with researchers from various research groups at ITAS and external partners, conducts empirical micro-case studies on socio-technical futures in a wide range of subject areas (e.g., mobility, energy, digitalization), in addition to theory and method developments. In a further step, the results of these studies form the empirical basis for the development of an analytical matrix. This analytical matrix is intended to provide methodological support in TA projects, both inside and outside ITAS.

The methodological and conceptual basic research enables the identification and anticipation of current signs and possibilities of socio-technical changes in specific constellations (e.g., agendas of science and research policy; mass media, political, and economic attention economies; alliances between innovators, associations, NGOs, and civil society) of an innovation and transformation process. The experience and knowledge generated in this way will form the basis for advice on and design of socio-technical futures in politics, science, and society. The focus of analysis implies and, moreover, enables TA to reflect on its own knowledge-policy related role in socio-epistemic practices.

Periods of the project:

  1. Micro-case studies (e.g. on futures of mobility, energy and digitalization) and development of a prototype for the analytical matrix (1/2020-10/2021)
  2. Validation and improvement of the prototype and completion of the analytical matrix (11/2021-12/2022)


Book Chapters
Şahinol, M.; Coenen, C.; Motika, R.
2020. Upgrades der Natur, künftige Körper. Hrsg.: M. Şahinol, V-XVII, Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden 
Conference Papers
Rothenhäusler, A.; Dobroć, P.
Vergangenen und gegenwärtigen Zukünften auf der Spur. Eine Einleitung.
2020. 2000 Revisited - Visionen der Welt von morgen im Gestern und Heute. Hrsg.: P. Dobroć, 3–39, KIT Scientific Publishing Full textFull text of the publication as PDF document
Coenen, C.
More Horrible than Demogorgon? Intelligent Machines and Human Destiny.
2020. Workshop AI Visions and Narratives (2020), Online, September 17–18, 2020 
Coenen, C.; Gammel, S.
Nano : Zur Gegenwart einer Zukunftstechnologie.
2020. Interdisziplinäre Ringvorlesung Global Challenges "20/20 Visions: Past and Present Futures of Technology" (2020), Darmstadt, Germany, May 19, 2020 
Dobroć, P.
Visions as cultural techniques. Cultural semiotic reflections on visions.
2020. Locating and Timing Matters: Significance and agency of STS in emerging worlds (EASST/4S 2020), Online, August 18–21, 2020 
Dobroć, P.; Rothenhäusler, A.
Die Vermessung der Zukunft von gestern und die Analyse von vergangenen und gegenwärtigen Technikvisionen.
2020. Neue Kulturgeographien. Technocultures & Technoscapes (NKG2020 2020), Bonn, Germany, January 30–February 1, 2020 
Lösch, A.
Exploring and Shaping the Politicization of Sociotechnical Futures Differently: Contextual Challenges for TA’s Vision Assessment.
2020. Locating and Timing Matters: Significance and agency of STS in emerging worlds (EASST/4S 2020), Online, August 18–21, 2020 
Lösch, A.; Schneider, C.
Vision Assessment als sozio-epistemische Praxis. Grundlagen – Beispiele - Herausforderungen.
2020. Kolloquium des Forschungsschwerpunkts "Gesellschaft - Gesundheit - Nachhaltigkeit" (2020), Furtwangen im Schwarzwald, Germany, January 24, 2020 
Journal Article Reviews


PD Dr. Andreas Lösch
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)
Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS)
P.O. Box 3640
76021 Karlsruhe

Phone: 0721 608-22505