Framing of emerging technologies as a strategic device
Location 131
Date and Start Time 01 September, 2016 at 16:00
Sessions 3


  • Jan-Christoph Rogge (WZB - Berlin Social Science Center) email
  • Alexander Wentland (Technical University of Munich) email

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Short Abstract

During the track we want to shed light on the strategic framing of emerging technologies by different stakeholders and the influences of those endeavors on the trajectory of these new technoscientific artifacts and practices.

Long Abstract

Although the study of emerging technologies is widely established within STS, little attention has been paid to the co-production and interplay of certain technoscientific practices or artifacts and their strategical framing by different stakeholder groups. Framing strategies allow stakeholders to attract venture capital, interest decision makers, and influence public opinion towards a not yet tangible or controversial technology. In fact, recent hypes around the electric car, nanotechnology, fuel cells and other cases suggest that the perception of a particular technology as "novel" or "emerging" itself can be interpreted as an outcome of strategic framing. The notion of frames and framing has often been used interchangeably with concepts such as schemas, scripts, mental models, and categories. However, the literature around these concepts often neglects the strategic component of the choices actors make to actively create and stabilize the frames that shape the perception and acceptance of a technology. The proposed track wants to bring together scholars that fill this gap by discussing the insights gained from analyzing the emergence of new technologies through the lens of strategic framing and related approaches. It wants to draw attention to a wide range of questions related to framing strategies: To what degree can deliberate framing change the trajectory of an emerging technology? What kind of public performance and expert engagement is needed to shift an already established narrative? How can we conceptualize competing framings around the same technology that struggle against each other?


This track is closed to new paper proposals.


Analyzing 'framing' as device in public debates

Author: Anna Pichelstorfer (University of Vienna)  email

Short Abstract

This paper investigates framing as a device in public debates on assisted reproductive technologies. It highlights the performativity of framings by showing how framings enact a desired reality through gradually (re)ordering a sociotechnical arrangement.

Long Abstract

STS scholars have shown that framing is a key aspect of governing emerging technologies. Control over the framework in which a technology is debated defines legitimate issues and actors of a debate and is thus a significant form of political power. But framings also define technologies themselves. Michel Callon (2007) has used the concept of framing to illustrate that frames are always matters of exclusions, as to frame means to create certain links and attachments while disabling others. Framings thus enact technologies as particular sociotechnical arrangements. Important questions then concern not only how framings come about but also what they do or enable. To investigate these questions as closely intertwined, this paper conceptualizes practices of framing as performative devices; that is as attempts to create a desired reality through a gradual (re)ordering of a sociotechnical arrangement. To make the work visible that goes into establishing a new framing as well as highlight what these framings do, the paper presents an analysis of how an established framing, that of assisted reproductive technologies being ethically problematic, has been contested and gradually redefined and by that led to a new sociotechnical arrangement. Drawing on empirical material gathered in a PhD project conducted under supervision of Ulrike Felt at the University of Vienna, I investigate public debates around assisted reproductive technologies that led to a policy change in Austria. I describe how this change was accompanied by a reframing of these technologies as (possible) matters of discrimination.

Feeding the world/Disrupting food: Strategic framings of novel proteins

Author: Alexandra Sexton (King's College London)  email

Short Abstract

This paper examines the strategic framing of novel proteins (i.e. cultured meat, edible insects and plant-based proteins) as they aim to provide consumers with ‘better’ alternatives to conventional proteins, as well as create new market opportunities by ‘disrupting’ the food system.

Long Abstract

Protein production via intensive, industrial means has come under increasing scrutiny over recent years: concerns range from the sector's widespread environmental impacts, poor animal welfare standards, and growing links between high meat consumption and chronic illnesses such as cancer. In response to these issues, novel proteins including cultured (lab-grown) meat, edible insects and plant-based proteins have emerged to provide more sustainable, ethical and healthier alternatives to conventional proteins. Their development however is predominantly rooted in distinct political and economic contexts associated with the Big Tech culture of Silicon Valley, which aim to apply technological market-based solutions to issues of consumption. As such, the developers of alternative proteins (APs) require strategic prioritising of different promises and framings so as to appeal to the many stakeholders involved in the food system (from investors to consumers). They also face the challenge of navigating public opinion as they seek to balance their novelty factor with people's existing perceptions and understandings of what counts as 'food'. This paper will examine the strategic framing of APs and comment on the ways in which this has given rise to new political dynamics within the food system, as well as influenced their own trajectory of development - from the choice of terms and expertise used, to the materiality of the end products themselves.

Framing bioeconomy: sustainable transition or re-clothing the emperor

Author: Juha Peltomaa (Finnish Environment Institute)  email

Short Abstract

Concepts such as bioeconomy have power to steer societal development. In the Finnish context, bioeconomy is simultaneously cutting edge and centuries old. In this paper we study the framings, ontologies and uses of the bioeconomy concept, and ask what implications these have in the society.

Long Abstract

Various EU- and national policies are increasingly stressing the importance of establishing paths towards sustainable modes of production and consumption. As part of the circular economy approach, bioeconomy has been recognized to be one mode of meeting the rising sustainability challenges. The core of bioeconomy in Finland are the technologies and resources related to forests. Bioeconomy as such is therefore nothing particularly new as the Finnish national economy has been more or less based on the use of forests for centuries (Siiskonen 2007). Science works through concepts, concepts are made of words and words do things, they possess power. Some concepts with high penetration rate have the power to change real-life processes and eventually lead to a paradigm shift. It is therefore of crucial importance how we use concepts such as bioeconomy. The application of bioeconomy as a political buzz-word has been criticized of offering a top-down technical solution and holding also properties that might endanger the sustainable use natural of resources (McCormick & Kautto 2013). On the other hand, due to the ambiguousness of the concept, bioeconomy possess interpretative flexibility in ways that can be utilized to the specific needs of diverse actors and objectives (Star & Griesemer 1989). In this paper we analyze the ways bioeconomy is framed among the different actors in Finnish policy context, what are the ontologies and presumptions when the concept is used, and ask what implications the uses of the concept might result in.

Framing of videoconferencing in mental health care

Authors: Ruud Janssen (Windesheim University of Applied Science)  email
Annemarie van Hout (Windesheim University of Applied Sciences)  email

Short Abstract

While studying nursing teams using videoconferencing, we uncovered two different framings: one based on the organizations’ expectations and the other shaped by a newly evolving care practice. These framings do not align and the organizations’ framing may turn blind to what is actually happening.

Long Abstract

Videoconferencing is increasingly used in mental health care. We are studying nursing teams using videoconferencing for patients with severe mental illnesses. The organizations where we are performing this research each have made their own choices regarding the videoconferencing technology, such as dedicated videoconferencing screens, videoconferencing software, and iPads with pre-installed videoconferencing apps. These technologies have in common that they provide videoconferencing functionality, and hence they may be regarded as equivalent. In fact, they are largely regarded as equivalent because video conferencing is framed by policy makers and health care organizations as a cost-effective means to replace face to face contact.

Studying the actual use of videoconferencing technology has shown us otherwise. Due to the technology new care practices arise. In our study a client who frequently denied professionals access to the house, used an iPad to show the nurse around. The lack of user-friendliness of the dedicated videoconferencing screens called for an installation team; this team was composed of former clients, creating new work opportunities for them in the process.

Thus, we have uncovered two different framings: one based on the organizations' prior expectations and the other shaped by a newly evolving care practice. These framings do not align well and the organizations' framing may turn blind to what is actually happening. We therefore ask the question: how can health care organizations, policy makers and even the health care research community be persuaded to adjust their framing in such a way that care practices are recognized for their diversity?

Topic modelling of EU and US energy policy documents

Authors: Karoliina Isoaho (University of Helsinki)  email
Arho Toikka (University of Helsinki)  email

Short Abstract

We compare energy policy document framings in the EU and the US through a topic modelling approach. The machine learning method enables the analysis of large text corpora. In this way, we provide novel insights into how different technology frames may matter in energy transition governance.

Long Abstract

Transforming the current energy governance systems towards sustainability faces numerous interconnected challenges. Reframing energy-policy towards one that facilitates energy transition is one of them. This paper starts from the non-linear approach to policy-making process, arguing that policy language is not a neutral medium. Instead, the use of language, and the values, interests and institutional aspects embedded in the development of policy discourse are believed to play a strategic role when articulating policy and promoting new technologies. This article seeks to provide insights into transition governance policy framing by presenting a case study from the European Union and the United States. We use a natural language processing method, dynamic topic modelling, to analyse a big data corpus of circa 5700 energy policy documents. The strength of this method is that it allows the analysis of large amounts of text, covering significantly more ground than humans could qualitatively read. Topic models are machine learning methods that map word co-occurrence in documents to find word probability distributions that are interpretable as coherent topics or frames. By analysing and comparing the evolution of the topic structure in these cases, we evaluate what vocabulary is used in framings and whether elements of strategic technology frames are present in the documents. Moreover, we seek to unravel whether existing frames are supporting the status quo or encouraging the emergence of novel frames on technologies. In doing so, our analysis seeks to open a novel vantage point into how policy frames matter in policy change and technology development.

Strategic use of expectations and representations: Innovating thermal treatment of municipal solid waste (MSW)

Authors: Paul Upham (University of Leeds & Leuphana)  email
Les Levidow (The Open University)  email

Short Abstract

We apply to the energy from waste sector two concepts for understanding strategic technology framing: technological expectations that mobilise resources; and social representations that aid the assimilation of new ideas through anchoring onto familiar frames of reference.

Long Abstract

The paper combines two theoretical concepts for understanding strategic technology framing: future technological expectations mobilising resources; and social representations assimilating new ideas through anchoring onto familiar frames of reference. The combination is applied to the controversial case of thermal-treatment options for municipal solid waste (MSW), especially via gasification technology. The data are principally UK interviews with actors in the energy from waste sector and associated planning and policy documents, including a city case study.

Stakeholders' social representations are found to set the criteria for technological expectations and their demonstration requirements, whose fulfilment in turn has helped gasification to gain more favourable representations. Through a differential 'anchoring', gasification is represented as matching incineration's positive features while avoiding its negative ones. Despite their limitations, current two-stage combustion gasifiers are promoted as a crucial transition towards a truly 'advanced' form producing a clean syngas; R&D investment reinforces expectations for advancing the technology. Such interlinkages between technological expectations and social representations may have broader relevance to socio-technical change, especially where public controversy arises over the wider systemic role of an innovation trajectory.

Performativity within Technological Innovation and the Maker Movement

Authors: Joan Edwards (Waterford Institute of Technology)  email
Jim Lawlor  email

Short Abstract

This paper examines the role of performativity within technological innovation and its application in the development of technologies through the Maker Movement.

Long Abstract

Recent models of the process of technological innovation attempt to incorporate the complex and overlapping activities involved in the development of an emerging technology. These activities entail a great degree of social and technological entanglement, that inform the innovation process. Such models suggest that social mechanisms provide the basis for a dialogue between innovators, new technologies, and markets. It is these social mechanisms which contribute to feedback, iteration and ritual, which constitute the key elements of the process of technological innovation. Through these factors the dialogue and innovation process become 'performative' in nature.

This paper aims to move towards a more performative model of technological innovation. Based on a summary of existing research on models of the innovation process and performativity, it clarifies the performative characteristics of the process of technological innovation, and integrates these characteristics into a newly proposed model. The dynamics of the model and challenges emerging from it are explored, addressing such questions as how the role of affordances maybe examined within the context of performativity.

The validity and applicability of the proposed model is evaluated by reviewing the development and impact of the Maker Movement within the 3D-printing market. This illustrates how end-users participate in the innovation process, inform an emerging technology and play a role in configuring the market. This paper attempts to clarify further the relationship between the material and the social in the process of technological innovation, and to make more explicit the interactions between the overlapping issues that constitute this relationship.

Framing Future Privacy Concerns through Corporate Concept Videos

Authors: Richmond Wong (University of California Berkeley)  email
Deirdre Mulligan (UC Berkeley)  email

Short Abstract

Concept videos depict future scenarios of technologies in development. Analyzing videos from several companies as visual advertisements and design fictions, we see how companies strategically frame, raise and address privacy concerns about new products and services with multiple audiences in mind.

Long Abstract

Concept videos provide visual depictions of a technology still in the development or design stage by placing the technology in a fictional, yet plausible, future scenario. They provide an opportunity to see how companies frame new products and services by visually and narratively configuring relations between technological artifacts, users, non-users, law and policy.

We show how privacy concerns were framed, raised and addressed in concept videos depicting the Amazon Air Prime drone delivery service, Google Glass, and the Microsoft HoloLens augmented reality headset. We analyze and interpret the visual meanings of these videos by viewing them as both advertisements (Gillian Dyer 1982) and design fictions (Julian Bleecker 2009).

Analyzing how these videos frame future technologies' technical capabilities, human-technology interactions, people's behavior, settings and social context of use, reveals how companies conceptualized privacy concerns (if at all). The videos suggest compliance with (or violation of) social norms, laws, and regulations that protect privacy. The videos present a company's particular vision of the future; some videos present a more open ended, speculative view of the future, while others present a more certain, concrete, anticipated view of the future. We also note how a single concept video is framed with multiple audiences and stakeholders in mind, such as individual consumers, business customers, and U.S. regulatory agencies. These concept videos represent a particular company's framing of the future, but also allow for further discourses to explore and contest these futures.

"The classroom of the future" - Strategic framing in the development of digital educational media

Authors: Tobias Roehl (University of Siegen)  email
Herbert Kalthoff (University of Mainz)  email

Short Abstract

Manufacturers of digital educational media depict their products as innovative means of improving education, thus allying a number of different actors. This frame is stabilized via an avant-gardist rhetoric, claims of the inevitability of digital technology, and by being present in different media.

Long Abstract

In countries where schools are financed and managed by state administration (e.g. Germany, France), manufacturers of digital educational media perceive the educational sector as a difficult market with bureaucratic decision making processes, low budgets, and a general aversion to technological innovation. Companies that aim to introduce novel technologies thus have to resort to a specific strategy of marketing their products. A number of different actors have to be convinced of the benefits of an educational technology: teachers and principals, parents and students, administrators and politicians, and also the general public. This is achieved by allying these different actors via a promise of a better future in which educational problems are solved through a technological fix. Digital educational media are thus framed as innovative not solely in technological but also in educational terms. Three strategies are employed to stabilize this narrative: (1) depicting users of digital media as part of an avant-garde that overcomes failures of the past; (2) highlighting the inevitability of digital technologies in the classroom; (3) being present at different events and in the media. This narrative of innovation results in a trajectory in which not only the product but the development process itself is constantly under revision and in flux. Drawing on the sociology of innovation we understand this narrative not as addendum but as an integral part to the development process. The paper builds on an ethnographic case study on the development and marketing of a 3D learning environment (called "virtual classroom").

Strategically framing in the co-evolution of emerging innovations, regulations and use practices

Author: Wouter Boon (Utrecht University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper studies ambiguous or flexible regulation in the context of emerging technologies. The focus lies on how technology developers, regulators and early users employ framing to strategically influence the co-evolution of technologies, regulation and use practices.

Long Abstract

Emerging technologies are characterized by a high level of uncertainty. Apart from the technological set-up, there is flexibility in terms of supporting infrastructure, networks of actors and market demand. One of the dimensions of new technologies that needs articulation is the regulatory embedding. Since technologies are ill-defined and as such not easy to categorize in a class of products or technologies, regulation are said to often lag behind. Recent examples in commercial genetic testing and ride-sharing services showed the problematic interaction between innovation and regulation.

For technology developers and companies such institutional uncertainty is problematic in the sense that they hope for rules that they can anticipate on and that form a level playing field for them and their competitors. At the same time, the companies can, through strategic framing, try to influence the formation of regulation. The active participation of such 'institutional entrepreneurs' is not limited to companies, but also crucially engages with early and anticipated users of technologies.

This paper focuses on the emergence of innovation, regulation and use practices and the relationships between these three aspects. I follow the strategic framings of the actors involved and investigate what role strategic framing plays in the co-evolution of innovation, regulation and use practices. Using document analysis, interview data and media analysis, I constructed histories of a case in off-label drug use, i.e. applying drugs outside the licensed indication area, and genomics. Based on the history timelines and related events and statements, I conducted a discourse analysis.

Nanotechnology is like…Analogy as framing device in public engagement

Author: Claudia Schwarz-Plaschg (University of Vienna)  email

Short Abstract

This presentation conceptualizes analogies as rhetorical devices to explore their framing effects. Applied to the case of public engagement with nanotechnology, this approach elucidates that lay people’s analogies construct a counter-framing to the strategic overpromising of politico-economic actors.

Long Abstract

Lay people are increasingly invited to deliberate on the future of emerging technologies such as nanotechnology in public engagement settings. Analogies, especially to familiar technologies, appear frequently in these contexts. Yet, by seeing analogies merely as cognitive-imaginative tools, most studies on lay analogies overlook that sense-making cannot be disentangled from framing and persuading practices. This presentation highlights the problems of cognitivist approaches (e.g. mental models approach, social representations theory) and proposes an alternative conceptualization of analogies as rhetorical, action-oriented devices employed to achieve specific effects. To illustrate this approach, the rhetorical roles of analogies are traced in discussion groups on nanotechnology with members of the Austrian public. Analogies are employed to argue for the acceptance or rejection of nanotechnology, to prevent certain futures from materializing, or to close a topic and counter other arguments. Underlying these different roles is a tension between a techno-optimistic and more techno-critical framing. Most participants use analogies to challenge techno-optimistic scenarios that dominate in politico-economic discourses. Analogies with past "risky" technologies here work to underpin a counter-framing that highlights concerns and encourages policy actors to learn from past governance mistakes. Instead of conceptualizing these two framings as incompatible, I propose to understand the emergence of the techno-critical framing as a "natural" counterbalancing strategy vis-à-vis the strategic overpromising that often accompanies emerging technologies today. Exploring the rhetorical roles of analogies represents a direct route to identify and understand the relations of diverging framings in a broader techno-political context.

The social construction of ignorance in the strategic framing of biosensing technologies

Author: Meena Natarajan (University of California, Berkeley)  email

Short Abstract

I examine the social construction of ignorance that underpins the strategic framing of biosensing and tracking technologies. I describe how competing frames and practices coalesce to configure these tools as critical in producing both individual autonomy and the reform of institutionalized medicine.

Long Abstract

This paper examines the strategic framing of biosensing and tracking technologies as critical tools in producing both individual autonomy and the reform of institutionalized medicine. Drawing from my three-year ethnographic engagement with the self tracking group, Quantified Self (QS), and allied digital health movements in California, I describe how QS re-imagines age-old practices of self tracking and patient monitoring, and analyze the social mechanisms through which the new self tracking imaginary is presented and adopted. I then interrogate how health systems co-opt and build individualized practice towards larger, collective public health goals. There are two productive characteristics of QS that help explain how competing frames coalesce; first is its activism, a contestational move of independence from institutionalized medical expertise, second is the multiplicity of frames in its health focused sub-cultures with patients, technologists, and medical experts all engaged in biosignal-tracking. This entanglement, reveals how different stakeholders are invested in and further the promise of biosensing and tracking technologies. I draw from theories of agnotology to argue that what resolves these conflicting frames is the social construction of various absences in knowledge as critical forms of ignorance needing technological remedies. Important questions include: Where and with whom does ignorance lie? Where and to whom does it travel? What will happen when it is eliminated? It is this strategic suggestion of ignorance that authorizes the digital surveillance of private lives, and the sustenance of new markets.

Heterogeneous frame alignment: exploring the emergence of Time-Lapse Photography in IVF

Authors: Manuela Perrotta (Queen Mary University of London)  email
Serena Naim (Queen Mary University of London)  email

Short Abstract

Exploring the case of Time-Lapse Photography IVF, the paper proposes a conceptualization of heterogeneous (i.e. made of human and non-human elements) frame alignments, as the successful outcomes of the strategical framing of emerging technologies by different stakeholder groups.

Long Abstract

This paper aims at investigating the emergence of Time-Lapse Photography (TLP) in In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), as an example of heterogeneous frame alignment. The concept of frame alignment, stemming from Goffman's work, has been used in the analysis of social movement to explore the key elements in social mobilization. This paper proposes a conceptualization of heterogeneous (i.e. made of human and non-human elements) frame alignments, as the successful outcomes of the strategical framing of emerging technologies by different stakeholder groups.

This novel conceptualization is grounded on the empirical case of the emergence of TLP in IVF. TLP is an old imaging technique, where a camera is set to record a series of images at regular intervals. TLP is now available for monitoring the development of embryos in IVF cycles before they are transferred into the womb and is currently used as a support in deciding which embryos to transfer. However, it is often strategically framed as a potentially revolutionary instrument, as it might foster the production of knowledge in embryo development. This narrative is sustained by a variety of elements such as the interest of IVF clinics and developers; the mundanity and commercialization of infertility treatments and the willingness of patients to pay to view their embryos at an early stage; and the (positive) side effects of some TLP tools on embryo development. The case shows how the alignment of these heterogeneous elements foster the diffusion and stabilization of these tools, against conflicting medical results and contradictory professional opinions.

This track is closed to new paper proposals.