Innovations are key driver in modern economies. They improve our life, offer solution to problems and often profoundly change the very fabric of social relationship. Yet their introduction is not an easy process and there are substantial differences among the societies, cultures, and social groups & communities in their appreciation and attitudes towards innovations, and in their capacity to introduce and sustain them.
What lays behind these differences? In what cases are innovations becoming dangerous? Are innovations inevitable by something "good"? Is it possible to manage innovations and their effects? And should we consider innovations in narrow economic terms or we need to adopt a broader vision on it?
Some people admire scientific and technological innovations and innovators. For them, innovations as such are unquestionably good and all we should do is to promote new achievements of science and technology, to make them effective and to help them to overcome various social barriers on their way. They are highly optimistic about the future of our technological and increasingly technologized societies. Others are quite the opposite. They tend to accurse fast changes and innovations that are dehumanizing once warm and meaningful social relations. At best they tend to be alarmists, at worst they become luddists. We can easily find people with such opposing world-views both inside and outside academia. Far from trying to find some “third way” in the middle ground between the two poles in this course we will follow Baruch Spinoza famous dictum “Non indignari, non admirari, sed intelligere”.
The course examines existing theoretical and practical approaches and provide a coherent frame for understanding innovations and the processes of their emergence, development and spread through the economies and societies. By taking distance from uncritical and favored approach to innovation as a value in itself, the module focus the attention of students to the users involvement in innovations, as well as their effects on social justice, on social (in)equality, and their contribution to the societies’ welfare.
It should be noted that there are many perspectives and discourses on innovation (e.g. economics and management of innovations). This particular course approaches innovations within the framework of interdisciplinary field of science and technology studies (STS) that accumulate an expertise on studying innovations since late 1970s. Though STS constitute a vast array of heterogeneous theoretical approaches and empirical case studies, they share in common a view of co-production of science, technology and society. STS consider innovations not as purely scientific and technical process, but as a complex and precarious socio-political activity. The scientific and the social, the technical and the political go hand in hand and are intertwined within innovation process. Society is not external to innovations but actively shape them. Innovations in their turn produce, disrupt, sustain and enhance social relations. Innovations are impossible without society and vice versa contemporary societies are not viable without innovations. It does not make much sense to talk separately about scientific and technological content of innovations on the one hand and about its societal context or environment on the other. Hence we will talk about sociotechnical processes and arrangements that is underscored in the title of the course Innovations and Society. Given all this we consider STS framework as the best way to problematize and to understand innovations.
You can check the coruse syllabus below.