(F11)
Technopolitics of integration. Charting imaginaries of innovation in the European Union
Location Faraday Complex Seminar Room 1
Date and Start Time 26 Jul, 2018 at 09:00
Sessions 3

Convenors

  • Luca Marelli (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven) email
  • Jim Dratwa (European Commission and Woodrow Wilson Center) email
  • Ine Van Hoyweghen (KU Leuven) email

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Short abstract

This panel aims to make sense of and critically examine the mobilization of S&T innovation towards the consolidation of the EU, asking which visions of the EU do innovation policies encode and perform, and which kinds of socio-political reconfigurations do they bring about.

Long abstract

Ever increasingly since the launch of the Lisbon Agenda at the turn of the millennium, the European Union has targeted the acceleration of scientific and technological innovation as a key policy objective, envisaging the consolidation of the Union as dependent upon its "power to innovate". Emphasized as one of the privileged means to steer the EU out of its current economic and political gridlock, while being heralded as conducive to nothing less than a "new Renaissance", the acceleration of innovation has come to underpin the promise of the European project and to define the imaginaries around which the fragile EU polity is envisaged to coalesce.

In this panel, we welcome empirical and conceptual contributions aimed at making sense of and critically examining the mobilization of innovation visions and policies towards the socio-political consolidation of the EU and its transnational exercise of political, economic and cultural power. Specifically, some questions that the panel seeks to probe include: which vision of the EU do innovation policies encode and perform? How is agency (re)distributed among different actors groups, and how are state-market-science relations and public-private boundaries being redefined, in EU innovation policies? Which actors groups are empowered to speak and act in the name of accelerating innovation, and whose voices are disenfranchised? What are the emerging tensions and frictions between the diverse ideals enshrined in innovation programs, from competitiveness and growth through to democratic accountability and social justice? How do specific visions of innovation depend upon, mobilize and/or reinforce existing socio-political inequalities?

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

"Data protection is a fundamental right in Europe". Examining sociotechnical imaginaries of search engines and a European identity

Author: Astrid Mager (Austrian Academy of Sciences) email
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Short abstract

This paper examines visions and values mobilized in the co-production of search engines and Europe. Focusing on the EU data protection reform, it shows how a European search engine imaginary forms, how a European identity is constructed, and how national particularities help to un/make Europe.

Long abstract

The EU data protection reform ran from 2012 until 2015 and resulted in a unified data protection legislation directly binding for all European member states. Examining EU policy documents and Austrian media materials related to the reform process and drawing on the concept "sociotechnical imaginary", I analyze 1) how the European imaginary of search engines forms and how fundamental rights are conceptualized as core European values (complementing techno-euphoric visions of digital innovation), 2) how a politics of control is envisioned and how a European identity is constructed, and 3) how fragile the European identity is when it is confronted with national specificities deeply rooted in different historical, cultural and economic traditions. This analysis shows that EU policy is mainly concerned with containing IT giants like Google and their business practices and hence follows a politics of control. In this context, the European identity is constructed in contrast to "the other", most importantly the US technology-policy nexus (resembling the imaginary of European technology politics as a "technological race with the United States" (Jasanoff 2005) in a certain way). It further shows that the European search engine imaginary is not only crafted in policy discourses, but also in national media debates, where strong metaphors are used to both solidify and shatter a European identity. To conclude, I discuss the dynamic and multi-faceted nature of sociotechnical imaginaries by arguing that not only technology, but also Europe is differently crafted, made and unmade in different locations.

Policy framing of risks and opportunities of an emerging technology: the case of Artificial Intelligence

Authors: Inga Ulnicane (De Montfort University) email
Bernd Stahl (De Montfort University) email
Tyr Fothergill (De Montfort University) email
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Short abstract

The aim of this paper is to study framing of an emerging technology of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in policy documents of the European Union institutions and stakeholders, and compare it with discourses at the national level and other regions including the US, UK and China.

Long abstract

In recent years, AI has been playing an increasing role in almost all areas of life from jobs to education, social services, finances and military. It is framed as a transformative and disruptive technology and associated not only with great opportunities but also with major ethical concerns related to social inequality, transparency and accountability. In this context, the European Union institutions and stakeholders are defining their policy visions and recommendations on opportunities and risks that AI presents in the EU context.

Against this background, this paper applies approaches and concepts from studies of emerging technologies (in particular, sociology of expectations, hypes and promises) to study framing of AI and associated risks and opportunities in the policy documents from the EU institutions and stakeholders as well as to compare it with discourses at the national level and other regions. In particular, the paper analyses how the positive and negative expectations are framed over a number of areas such as jobs, education, healthcare and military. Furthermore, it maps out recommendations for legislation, regulation, resource allocation and awareness to facilitate the development AI according to 'European values' of inclusiveness, sustainability and human rights. Framing of AI is analysed within the context of established EU science, technology and innovation policy discourses of competitiveness, responsibility, societal challenges in risks.

Visions of unification and integration: an ethnography of the European Human Brain Project

Author: Tara Mahfoud (King's College London) email
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Short abstract

In this talk, I reflect on European values of integration and unification and how these are embodied in the vision of the Human Brain Project (HBP). Based on multi-sited fieldwork in the HBP, I ask: what can a study of the HBP, then, tell us about European integration and unification?

Long abstract

In this talk, I reflect on European values of integration and unification and how these are embodied in the vision of the Human Brain Project - a 10-year project funded by the European Commission to build a data infrastructure for neuroscience research. 'Big Science' projects often promise to revolutionize knowledge production through "free and unfettered exchange" as Javier Lezaun put it, across national and institutional boundaries. The Human Brain Project has imagined a Europe without boundaries - ironically at a time when Europe's borders are being reinforced - where data flow freely between scientists, laboratories, institutions, and countries. I want to examine the politics of this frictionless vision of data integration and how it comes to life in the 'grip of encounter' as Anna Tsing would say. Based on multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork between 2014-2016 across European cities, I show that the process of building the cross-national data infrastructures to support the flow of data highlights missing data, discrepancies in experimental setups, inconsistencies in annotation - all moments of 'friction' between data, archives, and brain models. At stake in these encounters is a unitary or multiple future for the neurosciences - a singular Future Neuroscience or many Neurofutures. What can studying the Human Brain Project, then, tell us about European integration and unification?

Innovate to adapt European agricultures to climate change ? The "Climate Smart Agriculture Booster", a regulatory policy aiming at incentivizing technological innovation

Author: Jeanne Oui (Centre Alexandre Koyré - EHESS) email
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Short abstract

I analyze a European policy launched to adapt farming systems to climate change. In the Climate Smart Agriculture Booster, the climate issue is regulated by incitations to technological innovation directed to the private sector, which is considered as the major actor to implement a climate policy

Long abstract

Since the launch of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) and its Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KIC) in 2008, few studies have analyzed its action. I propose to look at a European public policy driving the adaptation of European agricultures to climate change, through a particular project launched in 2013 by the Climate-KIC: the « Climate Smart Agriculture » (CSA) Booster. The concept of Climate Smart Agriculture was born within climate negotiations in order to guide international public development policies in the fields of agriculture and climate change, and in spite of controversies at the international level, CSA has been translated without tensions in the European level by the Climate-KIC and various research institutions. In this context, climate change is interpreted as an opportunity to boost agriculture's competitiveness and innovation through the promotion of "climate-smart" technologies and tools for precision farming. On the basis of interviews, observations, CSA Booster archives, public reports, legal documents and web sites, we show that the CSA Booster case exemplifies European climate governance led by public-private partnerships: climate is more regulated by incentives to innovate than by legal constraints. In this framing, industrials, businesses and start-ups are considered as strategic partners to implement a public policy in agriculture, unlike more traditional agricultural actors like professional organizations. It also shows, in the context of an economy of technoscientific promises, how technological innovation is promoted both as a solution and a regulation to face climate change.

Relative gains or human security? A closer look at the EU's Ethics Issues Checklist for upstream control of dual-use research in Europe

Authors: Saheli Datta (King's College London) email
Christine Aicardi (King's College London) email
Tara Mahfoud (King's College London) email
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Short abstract

Dual-use (DU) technologies present a threat to human security but also hold considerable economic value. Our article takes a closer look at EU policies to control misuse of DU technologies through the lens of the Ethics Issues Checklists and Tables.

Long abstract

Dual-use (DU) technologies present a threat to human security but also hold considerable economic value. This article takes a closer look at EU policies to control misuse of DU technologies - through the lens of the Ethics Issues Checklists and Tables used for upstream control of European DU research - to understand the tensions between EU's desire to bolster its relative gains from DU technologies and its implications for human security. We show that not only do the EU's shift towards an economistic framing of DU regulations privilege relative gains at the expense of security imperatives but thereby also undermines the EU's commitments to human security agreed in multilateral treaties. Furthermore, findings show a nuanced understanding of EU's preference for economic considerations that combine economic growth expectations from a stronger European DU innovation and industry along with a strengthening of Europe's hard power capacities via a strengthened domestic security industry.

Make way for the robots! Roles for autonomy in building a European public-private partnership

Authors: Kjetil Rommetveit (University of Bergen) email
Niels van Dijk (Vrije Universiteit Brussel) email
Kristrún Gunnarsdóttir (University of Surrey) email
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Short abstract

This talk describes an autonomous robotics imaginary and its implementation in a techno-epistemic network across science, industry, politics and law. The roadmap is the main metaphor and organising tool, aligning heterogeneous actors along a common path towards a future European robotic society.

Long abstract

This talk describes and critically assesses how the 'ageing society' as a political challenge increasingly appears deeply entangled with efforts to design, build and market autonomous machines. Whereas this effort has a long history, it took on more institutional dimensions with the establishment of a European technology platform for robotics in 2005. Upon the launch of this platform, then-commissioner for ICT and media, Vivian Reding, proclaimed how "We need … to address many societal challenges, the ageing population, the well being of our society, and the need for security … Robotics will contribute to these challenges". Based upon a three-year study of innovation networks in the European Union, we describe how the autonomous robots imaginary has been appropriated and mobilised by key institutional actors. The paper describes the making of a techno-epistemic network that cuts across industry, science, politics and law, and how it appropriates and enacts this imaginary, creating meeting places across the boundaries between human and machine, different disciplines and sectors. Roadmaps are the main metaphor and organising tool in this work, aligning these heterogeneous actors along a common machine-centric and future-oriented path. Focusing on a recent legislative initiative for robotics, we describe what happens as the industry-dominated project of building robot autonomy docks with public institutions in a public-private partnership. Emphasising the co-production of robotics and politics we observe how human-machine configurations now also enter the legal institutions as a controversy and a problem for human-centred constitutions.

The diversity of regional innovation cultures in the European Union: "conservative innovation" in Bavaria

Authors: Alexander Wentland (Technical University of Munich) email
Sebastian Pfotenhauer (Technical University of Munich) email
Luise Ruge (Technical University of Munich ) email
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Short abstract

Many regions in the EU are struggling to reconcile the harmonization of innovation with local socio-economic traditions, politics, and identities. We explore how regions navigate this tension and express unique innovation cultures, while being part of the larger technopolitical landscape of the EU.

Long abstract

Innovation has become an imperative in the European Union, with many regions trying to establish themselves as innovation hubs according to European as well as global "best practices." Yet, many of these regions are struggling how to reconcile the harmonization and standardization of innovation, such as the explicit and implicit framings in the European Framework Programmes, with local socio-economic traditions, unique political cultures, and regional identities.

In this presentation, we explore how regions navigate this tension and express unique innovation cultures, while being part of the larger economic and political landscape of the EU. Using the German state of Bavaria as an in-depth case study, we show how Bavaria enacts a particular imaginary of "conservative innovation" in keeping with existing sources of identity and social cohesion. This imaginary suggests preserving traditional socio-economic orders rather than disrupting them; to favor and safeguard political and economic incumbents rather than enable new entrants; and to act from a perceived position of strength or even saturation rather than decline or emergency. Moreover, Bavaria innovates ignoring or even rejecting integrative European technopolitics.

Our research provides new support for a social-constructivist foundation of innovation theory, highlighting the unique local situatedness and inter-regional differences in the rationalization and practice of innovation policy. It provides a counterpoint to the persistent universalist tendencies in innovation theory around models, systems, and "best practices," which has come to dominate much of the EU's innovation policy strategy.

Contribution Systems: how to re-think the politics of innovation as agencies without actors?

Author: Anton Schröpfer (Technical University of Munich) email
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Short abstract

My paper is concerned with the political question how to reevaluate "the different forms of democracy within hybrid combinations of agencies that transform their word into a common one", namely an enterprising innovative European Union. My concept of Contribution Systems might help to do so.

Long abstract

According to the European Commission, we live in the "Century of Complex Systems". In such systems, "a more open approach matters for innovation as much as for government". Openness is dramaturgic part of the Commissions' imaginaries, which call into being so-called "competitive European Union innovation ecosystem", a place, where "everyone can be an innovator now, and needs the chance to join the system".

The mobilization of ever more actors is not a peaceful project. Rather, it opens up ever more zones of contestations, in which it is no longer clear, what 'real' innovation is, who is responsible for innovation, or how we could/should organize social practices in order to innovate. In my talk, I will show in empirical detail how European innovation policy, academic managers of innovation and European technical universities (EuroTechUniversities) invent ever more possibilities to make up and dominate techno-social order within such contested zones.

Drawing on the work of Jacques Roux my paper is concerned with the political question how to reevaluate "the different forms of democracy within hybrid combinations of agencies that transform their word into a common one", namely an enterprising innovative European Union. How to write critically about such political projects, without simply judging or positioning actors as its major drivers? Can we critically re-think such projects in terms of "Agencies without Actors" (Passoth et al. 2012)? I will suggest my concept of Contribution Systems to tackle these questions.

Innovation and neocolonialism in the European Space Agency's Moon Village concept (or how Europe will guide humanity into deep space)

Author: Tamara Alvarez (The New School ) email
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Short abstract

This paper examines the synergies and frictions between the expert groups implicated in the Moon Village, discussing the ways in which the project's neocolonial rationality and EC innovation initiatives more generally seek to consolidate the EU and advance its position in the international arena.

Long abstract

Four months after the Brexit referendum, the European Commission and the European Space Agency issued a joint statement on their Shared Vision and Goals for the Future of European Space, expressing a "common European ambition that Europe remains a world-class actor" through space solutions' contribution to the continent's economic growth. In line with its new commitment to "strengthen European values" and foster prosperity through technoscientific innovation, ESA has been developing the Moon Village, a lunar base concept that aims to bring mining companies and scientists together on the Moon. According to the agency, the project will inspire young Europeans, showing them that all is possible (even settling on the Moon) if we see the continent as it looks like from orbit —borderless, united. Yet ESA's ambitions are even grander. "Through Europe's tradition of exploration and innovation," an ESA video claims after recounting Columbus' navigation feats, "we're helping to redefine humanity once more." Many experts at ESA, however, remain wary of these neocolonial narratives, while others, from managers to planetary scientists, express concerns about an ever-expanding logic of extraction that is reconfiguring space as a new resource frontier. Drawing on ethnographic material gathered during a two-year fieldwork at ESA, this paper examines the synergies and frictions between ESA expert groups, EU policies, and private companies implicated in the Moon Village, discussing the ways in which the project's neocolonial rationality and EC innovation initiatives more generally seek to consolidate the EU and advance its position in the international arena.

A solution looking for a problem? Interrogating the 'innovation imperative' and the 'deficit model' of innovation

Authors: Sebastian Pfotenhauer (Technical University of Munich) email
Erik Aarden (University of Vienna) email
Joakim Juhl (Harvard STS / Aalborg University) email
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Short abstract

We analyze the proliferating "deficit model" of innovation, in which a lack of innovation is seen as hindering social progress. Using case studies from three countries and drawing parallels to PUS, we develop a framework for how innovation deficits operate and legitimize policy interventions.

Long abstract

As innovation is becoming an imperative for policy-makers in Europe, there is a growing tendency to frame societal problems as problems of innovation. This logic suggests that we are unable to address Europe's grand challenges and ensure economic competitiveness because our societies, institutions, scientific activities or individual predispositions are not sufficiently geared towards innovation. In this paper, we analyze this "deficit model" of innovation, in which a lack of innovation is routinely invoked as the main obstacle to social progress to justify major political and institutional interventions. Drawing parallels to research on the deficit model of Public Understanding of Science (PUS), we develop a theoretical framework that captures the dynamics and normative implications of deficit construction. We apply this framework to three empirical case studies of recent innovation strategies in Luxembourg, Portugal, and Denmark. Attention to this deficit model is important, we argue, because it is an essential part of how innovation transforms societies in the 21st century: not only through new technological possibilities or economic growth, but also by shaping policy discourse, narrowing policy options, and legitimizing social interventions. The deficit model caters to a pro-innovation bias and tends to marginalize rationales, values, and social functions that do not explicitly support innovation. Moreover, it delegates decisions about sweeping social reconfigurations to innovation experts, which raises questions of accountability and democratic governance. Experiences from the history of PUS suggest that the present deficit logic and its technocratic overtones bear the risk of significant social and political conflict.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.