Accepted Paper:

Identity formation and transformation in transdisciplinary scholarship: the case of Technology Assessment  


Anja Bauer (Alpen-Adria-Universit├Ąt Klagenfurt)
Karen Kastenhofer (Austrian Academy of Sciences)

Paper short abstract:

We discuss the identity construction and transformation among Technology Assessment practitioners. Two questions are characteristically at stake in the construction of a 'TA identity', first the role of the original disciplinary identity and second the identity as a scientist or researcher as such.

Paper long abstract:

Technology Assessment is a paradigmatic case for the multifarious and at times ambiguous processes of identity formation and transformation of researchers in inter- and transdisciplinary settings. TA combines the natural, technical and social sciences and follows the dual mission of scientific analysis and policy advice. Yet despite this diversity Technology Assessment also constitutes a genuine community, reflected in dedicated conferences and publications.

Building on interviews with 20 practitioners at the Austrian Institute of Technology Assessment (ITA), we ask whether and how a genuine TA identity is formed and constituted and which mechanisms of identity construction and transformation are at play. Our analysis illustrates that a 'TA identity' is developed as part of a second or sometimes even third academic socialisation, following quite distinct patterns and outcomes. Two questions are characteristically at stake in the construction of a 'TA identity': First, ITA practitioners place their disciplinary identity and respective belongings differently in relation to their role as TA practitioners; some remain strongly affiliated with their original discipline, some transform to interdisciplinary TA experts and others again feel lost in between and belonging nowhere. Secondly, the presumed position on a spectrum between research and policy advice is constitutive for the identity of ITA practitioners. ITA practitioners think of themselves, as well as others, as being more scientifically inclined, more oriented towards advisory activities or balancing both aspects. Concluding, we discuss the contrary dynamics and mechanisms of joint community building and individual demarcation processes that accompany identity work within the same institutional boundaries.

Panel F03
Scientists - agents under construction