Emerging science and technology : questioning the regime of promising
Location VIP
Date and Start Time 02 September, 2016 at 14:00
Sessions 6


  • Marc Audétat (University of Lausanne) email
  • Pierre-Benoit Joly (INRA / UPEM) email
  • Harro van Lente (Maastricht University) email

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Short Abstract

This track invites papers examining the regime of promising in emerging science and technology, dealing with issues of performance and credibility. It aims at fostering discussion about the issues and consequences of the regime of promising for the research system as well as for society.

Long Abstract

Promises, future visions, expectations, imaginaries, are not merely accompanying, they are also shaping modern science and technology. They support scientific enthusiasm and stimulate competition, raise financial resources, and orient research funds. In particular emerging science and technology rely on the production and circulation of promises, since they apply to competitive funds. As a result, since the start of big national programs on biotechnology, nanotechnology, brain research, personalised medicine, synthetic biology, etc., a regime of techno-scientific promises came to stabilize and dominate the whole system of research. Future visions, stories, and technological promises have been increasingly forged and brought to public attention. This economy of promises is steering speculative bubbles ; it induces misunderstandings about expectations and temporality ; it is adding pressure on researchers and tensions in science ; and it is questioning the governance of research and of sociotechnical change. This track invites papers examining the regime of promising in various emerging science and technology, looking at rules and practices in current domains, dealing with issues of performance and of credibility, as well as papers about organizations, discourses and practices of the regime of promises, papers comparing it across countries and technoscientific domains. In this track we want to critically analyse the regime of techno-scientific promises, to analyse how it evolves over time, as well as papers about the critics and the alternatives. It aims at fostering discussion about the issues and consequences of the regime of promising for the research system as well as for society.

This track is closed to new paper proposals.


"Personalized Medicine" and "Eggs Forever": Promissory work in genomic research and reproductive medicine

Authors: Gaia Barazzetti (University of Lausanne, CHUV University Hospital Lausanne)  email
Nolwenn Bühler (University of Neuchâtel)  email

Short Abstract

This paper compares promises in genomic research and reproductive medicine. Analyses of scientific and institutional discourses and practices show that promissory work in these two fields display similar patterns when dealing with issues of credibility, temporality and durability.

Long Abstract

We examine how promises are forged in two different techno-scientific fields: genomic research and reproductive medicine. While genome research promises to increase our ability to prevent and treat disease, embedding a vision of "personalized medicine" that will be beneficial for both individual and public health, some reproductive technologies such as egg donation, freezing, or techniques aiming at "renewing" oocytes promise to extend female fertility beyond the biological age limits. Drawing on analyses of discourses and practices of scientific and institutional actors, we compare promissory work in these two fields with the goal of elucidating specific patterns of credibility and temporality.

In both promises the boundary between research and the clinic is continuously crossed in order to foster the translation of research into clinical applications. An "ethical boundary-work" aiming at gaining credibility in the eyes of policy-makers, healthcare professionals and the public has become an integral part of personalized medicine, whereas it is much more context-dependent when it comes to the biotechnological extension of fertility. Promissory work in both fields show similar approaches to temporality, since they open up imaginaries of possible futures for healthcare or reproduction, based on the anticipation of scientific evidence that is yet to be established and works in the present as if it was already there. Finally, the durability of promises of "personalized medicine" and "eggs forever" seems to depend not only on the gap between expectations and actual practices, but also on the engagement of private companies creating a market of promising products.

Agroecological transitions: contestations of the regime of techno-scientific promises?

Authors: Sarah Lumbroso (INRA- Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique)  email
Jessica Thomas (INRA- Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique)  email

Short Abstract

We show how transitions towards sustainable agro-food systems imply the building of various promises, through articulations with the dominant regime of techno-scientific promises (hybridization, confrontation, integration), opening up or closing down opportunities for transformative change.

Long Abstract

Our paper studies how transitions towards agroecology can contest the regime of techno-scientific promises. Originally, agroecology is a radical transformation of agricultural practices to improve the resilience of food systems. Transitions towards this objective challenge the dominant agro-food system, which is supported by the regime of techno-scientific promises.

Diverging from a top-down vision of agriculture development relying on technological improvements, agroecology intends to open the process of knowledge production. Indeed it relies on knowledge co-construction integrating local experiences to contextualise innovation. Therefore AE needs to develop alternative types and forms of promises, to face the dominant techno-scientific ones.

We study the building processes of promises around agroecological transitions. Our analysis considers the content of those promises, their material basis, and spaces where they circulate. We rely on a comparative analysis of case studies of spaces where agroecological promises are built (e.g. foresight studies on food systems, the French Government agroecological project, farmers initiatives…). We identify how various promises open up or close down opportunities for transformative change. Power asymmetries structuring the agro-food system persist and shape the confrontation between promises. There are processes of mutual integration between agroecological promises and the regime of techno-scientific promises, leading either to a reinforcement of the dominant regime or to its adaptation. Hybridizations, integrations and conflicts between promises shape choices for agricultural research and development with societal implications.

Applying promises in demand-driven innovations: The case of smart mobility

Authors: Darja Vrščaj (Eindhoven Technological University )  email
Tanja Manders  email

Short Abstract

In this paper we analyze visions on New Mobility Services (NMS) to research how the promises about user needs were constructed and what do they entail. We identify ambiguities in the envisioned expectations and reflects on how these influence applications of NMS in experimentation phases.

Long Abstract

R&D funding projects such as Horizon2020 are welcoming demand-driven types of innovations, which are presented in visions where they are promised to address user needs and values. However, the envisioned user needs are often defined using ambiguous terms like sustainability. Furthermore, the visions often lack specifications about technical solutions for applying the promises. In this paper, we first conceptually analyse the emerging narratives and promises in specific demand-driven innovations and second research what implications it has for experimentation with the envisioned innovations.

We look into smart mobility which is a demand-driven ICT based innovation expected to optimise mobility flows beyond traditional traffic and infrastructure solutions to also include 'softer' user mobility needs such as quality of life and ease of use. We focus on a New Mobility Services (NMS) niche, one of the prime examples of demand-driven smart mobility innovations, consisting of a variety of innovations relying on (traffic) information for delivering more efficient, safer and convenient mobility solutions.

Empirically, we focus on the NMS visions developed by the Dutch Ministry for Infrastructure and Environment. Conducting literature study and interviews we analyze how the promises about user needs were constructed and what do they entail, including expectations about their applications. Conducting interviews with NMS actors in the Netherlands and analysing a database of experiments, we explore how the promises and expectations about user needs are applied in experimentation phases. We conclude by answering how the ambiguities embedded in the promises influence innovation processes and we draw implications for decision-makers.

Enthousiasm and Scepticism regarding Digital Health Technologies: the Promise Trap

Authors: Maria del Rio Carral (University of Lausanne)  email

Short Abstract

The proliferation of digital tools is underpinned by beliefs regarding their potential to improve health. This contribution analyses how this issue appears in research. We show that scientific debates seem trapped in promises raised by digital health and suggest how to surmount this impasse.

Long Abstract

The democratisation of « smart » phones and the proliferation of wearable digital tools of self-tracking has become a major issue in the health field nowadays. This rapid and important development seems to be underpinned by strong beliefs regarding the potential of digital technologies in improving strategies for health promotion and the treatment of illness. In this contribution, our aim is to study existing debates in the scientific litterature to identify how these promises appear across current research. To do this, a critical review has been conducted, consisting on an analysis of articles in the fields of social sciences, health sciences and technological sciences. Results reveal two main trends: The first one, which is the mainstream, is defined by its clear enthousiasm towards the use of digital health technologies, convinced about its revolutionary impact to change human behaviour. A second trend, less present in the litterature, shows scepticism towards this enthousiasm by highlighting socioeconomic and political implications such as surveillance and normalisation of practices. However, these trends, either through hopes or through fears, are both « trapped » in a debate based on promised impacts of digital health. On this basis, we argue on the need to surmount the impasse by adopting a critical framework that enables the study of concrete practices related to digital tools, their embeddedness in everyday life, as well as the financial stakes involved in their development. This may constitute an alternative to researchers who aim to contribute to the improvement of health care conditions.

Evolving Patterns of Anticipatory Governance - The Graphene Hype Wave

Authors: Kornelia Konrad (University of Twente)  email
Carla Alvial Palavicino (Universidad Diego Portales)  email

Short Abstract

We follow anticipatory practices and expectations around graphene through different spaces related to science, policy and markets. We show how anticipatory governance patterns evolve over time, and how a graphene hype wave emerged, moving through and linking spaces.

Long Abstract

Anticipation in the form of scientific promises and visions, market forecasts, roadmapping and risk assessments is a pervasive element in the governance of new and emerging science and technologies. This holds for dedicated governance tools as foresight or roadmapping processes, just as for more implicit anticipatory practices, such as standards or a Nobel Prize, which contribute to shaping expectations regarding techno-scientific fields. We suggest to understand these anticipatory practices as part of an evolving governance structure, where anticipation in the form of expectations, visions etc. contribute to the governance of science and technology, but may themselves be shaped by these evolving governance structures. We suggest the concept of governance of and by expectations to capture this double relationship and use this lens to investigate how expectations around the new material graphene, up to hype, have been shaped by various anticipatory practices. The impressive development of graphene promises, both scientific and market oriented, of research, policy support and further activities makes it a key example of the regime of techno-scientific promises. We follow the anticipatory practices and expectations through different spaces related to science, policy and markets, which are each characterized by specific sets of anticipatory practices. In so doing, we show, how the (anticipatory) governance patterns evolve over time, and how the graphene hype emerged, along with graphene as a techno-scientific field. We suggest that what we observe may be described as a hype wave moving through time and spaces, rather than as a purely temporally structured hype cycle.

Forensic DNA Phenotyping: making human appearance predictable.

Author: Marianna Fotiadou (University of Amsterdam)  email

Short Abstract

Forensic DNA Phenotyping is an emerging technique which aims to trace suspects in suspect-less criminal cases. This paper examines how forensic scientists argue for the value of the technique by relating to promises about neutrality and accuracy.

Long Abstract

Much forensic research has been devoted to the prediction of facial traits as the face is considered to constitute the ultimate individual characteristic. Forensic DNA Phenotyping refers to a newly developed DNA-based forensic technology which predicts external (facial) characteristics by analyzing genetic material found at the crime scene. Forensic geneticists claim that this technique will contribute to criminal investigations, particularly in cases without suspects or eyewitnesses, as well as in cases where conventional DNA matching fails to identify possible perpetrators.

The value of this technique is based on claims regarding the genetic neutrality of individual-specific predictions of visible traits. Thus, DNA accuracy is presented as a tool against possibly prejudiced eyewitness descriptions. Forensic scientists circulate promises about the accuracy and validity of this technique, thus hoping to ensure extra funding for the purposes of further research carried out independently of other associated sciences. Furthermore, they illustrate the legal and social value of this technology, by emphasizing its contribution towards the reduction of racism/ racist phenomena and the obtainment of unmediated and accurate predictions. Nonetheless, the genetic basis of human appearance traits remains largely unexplained. In addition, the varying legal frameworks in European countries restrain the application of the technique as an investigative tool.

Framing the bioeconomy: imaginaries of a transnational political project

Authors: Barbara Ribeiro (University of Nottingham)  email
Robert Smith (King's College London)  email
Kate Millar (University of Nottingham )  email

Short Abstract

We explore European National Bioeconomy Strategies by investigating how they are being framed, the actors that participate in their design and implementation and the potential tensions that exist when they are viewed in light of a holistic vision for the bioeconomy.

Long Abstract

This paper questions how the 'bioeconomy project' is being framed in European national and supra-national policies, how it will be implemented, and by whom. Current discourses on the bioeconomy are attached to narratives that are largely concerned with economic processes, embracing an overwhelming array of bio-based technologies and industries (e.g. food and bioenergy industries), as well as the related biosciences fields that support them. These are included under the same umbrella term, which has become increasingly popular and motivated governments around Europe to create dedicated strategies to its development. We use frame analysis to understand what the bioeconomy project consists of, what differentiates it from past bioscience support policies, and how Member Countries, such as the UK, Germany and Finland build synergy and differentiate themselves. There seem to be unavoidable tensions regarding the values and assumptions that frame imaginaries of the bioeconomy project as they fluctuate between a new paradigm for bio-based sectors that is more sustainable and more resource efficient than the current one and those which resemble the existing industrialist paradigm. Drawing on empirical work done in a project around public engagement in the bioeconomy, we explore both hidden and explicit assumptions that underpin bioeconomy strategies, and the kinds of concerns currently included in them. Exploring how these values and assumptions, as well as the associated concerns, are framed is important because they are responsible for shaping the consequences of the bioeconomy, and ultimately who benefits and how.

Governing anticipatory technologies. Forensic DNA Phenotyping in Europe

Author: Matthias Wienroth (Newcastle University)  email

Short Abstract

Discussing ‘anticipatory technologies’ using Forensic DNA Phenotyping (FDP) as example, this paper examines 3 dimensions of FDP’s anticipatory nature (epistemic; operational; utility narratives) and explores their place in (self-)governing work of an emerging forensic genetics community of practice.

Long Abstract

The successful adoption of new technologies by communities of practice necessarily involves claims about their identity. Promissory narratives are integral to the formation and negotiation of these identities. However, promissory narratives are not the only or most significant anticipatory device that drives technology adoption. Drawing on and contributing to literature on the governance of technology, on technology adoption, and on the sociology of expectations, the paper aims to extend the debate on promissory narratives of emerging technologies to include the notion of inherently 'anticipatory technologies.' It suggests that such technologies encourage network-based, discursive (self)governing mechanisms, in themselves a form of anticipatory governance.

In focussing on Forensic DNA Phenotyping (FDP), the paper discusses three anticipatory devices that render FDP an inherently anticipatory technology. These devices describe the epistemic nature of FDP, its operational modi, and promissory suggestions made about its potential value to users. They are part of the discussion around credibility, legitimacy and utility of FDP. Phenotyping technologies are emerging in a discourse of claims around the power of DNA to provide reliable information and the limitations of producing, communicating and using this information in the social production of security and justice. In this context, an emerging (intentionally crafted) forensic genetics community of practice actively constructs a specific technology identity for FDP in order to enable and encourage its adoption by potential users and policy makers across national jurisdictions.

How norms and standards in biotherapy play promising game?

Author: Vincent Deplaigne (École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales)  email

Short Abstract

The regime of techno-scientific promises is probably one of the most prominent in biotherapy technologies especially through genomic knowledge. We study how standards and norms shape part of biomedical science articulated on the paradigm of predictive medicine.

Long Abstract

This article analyses the way medicine of precision built on prediction and personalized concepts are linked to the regime of promises. For instance, such a study has been accomplished and illustrated for anti-ageing product (Dalagarrondo et al. 2015). We consider here biomedicalization (Clarke et al. 2003, 2010) as a general context allowing and fostering expectations in new genomic medicine. We focus on the interplay of standards and norms in the field of genomic technologies used in biotherapy. The technical practices and using of norms and standards in genomic are framing a vision for both patient and therapist team. However, those results are highly codified and transformed by media industry to be pushed towards bio-subject as people sensitive to health concerns due to illness pre-disposition known or supposed because of behavior or life style. We will see what are knowledge process searching for reducing uncertainty and associated risks as well, through normativity. In the field of life sciences and medicine the paradigm of promises calls a new meaning of temporality while patient hopes is high and promises held are not understood in the same way by stakeholders especially in biomedicine where pace of innovation is high. We scrutinize how are articulated and self reinforcing items of promises paradigm and technologies of governmentality (Lemke, 2012) channeled by bundle of standards and norms.

Institutionalising promises: The key role of promise champions in mediating and embedding visions of the future into institutions (evidence and a typology)

Authors: Douglas Robinson (LISIS, Uni-Paris Est (FR) )  email
Aurelie Delemarle (Ecole des ponts ParisTech)  email
Philippe Laredo (Université Paris Est)  email

Short Abstract

Field level studies of expectations has received much attention, whilst embedding of these visions into institutions has received much less. We provide a case-based typology showing how promises shape the directions of emergence through institutionalisation processes mediated by promise champions.

Long Abstract

Promises shape emerging technology fields and the sociology of expectations and other branches of innovation studies have explored these field-level dynamics in depth, e.g. hype cycles, ideographs and umbrella terms, promise requirement cycles and waiting games. What is less visible in this literature is the institutional embedding of technology fields and the role of expectations and promises in mediating, directing and crystallising these promising fields into institutions. We propose that a key part of this institutionalisation process is played by "promise champions", which mobilise resources, enrol other actors, select (both in and out) and embed visions of the future into ongoing practices.

In this paper, we identify four types of "promise champions", a typology that is visible across the breadth of emerging technology fields, each playing a key role at different stages of emergence and, in some cases, inscribing the future directions of the emerging field through the institutional embedding of their preferred visions. This has ramifications for a deeper understanding of the "regime of techno-scientific promising", not only for the analysis of emerging fields, but also for anticipatory governance and the dynamics of opening up and closing down of options. We will present the typology, drawing on case studies in nanotechnology and additive manufacturing, however, we argue that this typology is visible in fields such as synthetic biology brain computer interfaces, NBIC and elsewhere. We conclude with the call for further research on the role of institutionalising of promising fields and the typology of actors and associated spaces.

Kinase inhibitors; the role of believers and non-believers in drug research

Author: Farah Huzair (University of Edinburgh)  email

Short Abstract

Work to develop tyrosine kinase inhibitors began in the 1980’s. Early development was marked by a lack of promise, followed by the development of a band wagon. This historical study describes how drug development took place and the role of the public and private sectors.

Long Abstract

Work to develop tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKI's), small molecule cancer drugs, began in the 1980's. Recognition that TKIs are viable as a treatment and as a marketable product finally came with the approval of imatinib in 1998, a first-in-class drug. Before this time however, attempts were greeted by much of the scientific community with skepticism. There was a widely held belief that the proposed mechanism of action for TKIs was not possible. After proof of concept was shown by imatinib, and alongside the development of genetic sequencing which demonstrated the targets available for TKI's, a bandwagon developed. Early development in the field was marked by a distinct lack of promise, relating to both the product and the market. This paper describes where and how drug development took place in terms of the role of the public and private, and the different innovation systems in the UK and US. The moments at which hypotheses gained credibility are examined. At these points disbelief turned into promise and expectation, as momentum gathered in the scientific community and the pharmaceutical industry. The promises made in the late 90's are only now coming to fruition with 28 TKI's now approved for treatment. This is a historical study of TKIs which draws upon data from semi structured interviews and secondary sources.

Mobilising expertise and expectations in 3D bioprinting organisations

Author: Carlos Cuevas Garcia (Technical University of Munich)  email

Short Abstract

This paper focuses on the co-dependence of expectations and expertise in the nascent field of 3D bioprinting, and more specifically on the role played by particular forms of organisation in the maintenance and flow such expertise and expectations.

Long Abstract

This paper focuses on the co-dependence of expectations and expertise in the nascent field of 3D bioprinting, and more specifically on the role played by particular forms of organisation in the maintenance and flow such expertise and expectations. 3D bioprinting is itself the convergence of two preceding scientific and industrial fields: biotechnology, in particular tissue engineering or regenerative medicine; and additive manufacturing, commonly known as '3D printing'. Both of these fields have a relatively short history accompanied by high expectations, and in fact both have been referred to as 'revolutionary' (Li, 2014; Nightgale and Martin, 2004). This paper is based on a postdoctoral research project currently at an initial stage. The project draws, theoretically, on the sociology of expectations, the sociology of organizations, and insights from studies of interdisciplinarity; and methodologically, on a variety of discourse analysis developed in social psychology. Empirically, the project intends to explore claims of expertise and 'promissory discourses' contained in magazines, academic articles, official documents and industries' and university websites, as well as interviews with researchers working in 3D bioprinting and relevant fields in the UK and Germany. Of particular interest are assumptions about how should the broader 3D bioprinting field be organised so that expertise across different communities of practice is better shared, and so that promises can become reality. The paper presents advances of the project and contributes to the critique of the economy of hope.

Negotiating "Biometric Futures": Promises, Politics and Biometric Identification in Israel

Author: Michelle Spektor (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)  email

Short Abstract

This paper examines the controversy over a new biometric identification program in Israel. Suggesting that the “promise” of biometric identification technologies is tied to disparate visions of the “biometric future,” it considers how renderings of the future shape the program’s present trajectory.

Long Abstract

In Israel, attempts by the Ministry of Interior to create a new biometric identification program comprised of a digital database and "smart" national IDs containing the index fingerprints and facial recognition data of all Israeli citizens have generated significant political debate. The controversy concerns forward-looking statements about the benefits biometric identification technologies will bestow or the havoc they will wreak, and the possible "biometric futures" they will bring. The program's supporters, primarily government ministry and hi-tech industry representatives, claim that biometric identification will eliminate identity theft, enhance national security, and advance technological innovation. Meanwhile, a group of academic experts in computer science, information science, and law have attempted to derail the implementation of the biometric database by asserting that, in addition to violating civil liberties, an inevitable breach of the database would create unprecedented security risks. Drawing upon two years of archival and ethnographic fieldwork in Israel, this presentation uses "promise" as a lens to consider the articulation of contradictory forward-looking statements about biometric identification technologies. It considers the actors who claim the credibility of their disparate expectations of the biometric identification program, the infrastructures and political relationships that might influence its outcomes, and the how renderings of the "biometric future" shape its present trajectory. Suggesting that the "promise" of biometric identification technologies is tied to technologically-driven visions of the future, this presentation argues that the debate over Israel's biometric identification program is just as much a struggle over current technology and politics as it is over promissory "biometric futures."

Promises in deep geothermal energy provision: closing down possible pathways?

Author: Olivier Ejderyan (ETH Zurich)  email

Short Abstract

This paper discusses to what extent the promises of access to cheap, unlimited and regular power through the development of enhanced geothermal systems have affected the development of deep geothermal energy in Switzerland.

Long Abstract

My presentation discusses how promises of access to cheap, unlimited and regular power through enhanced geothermal systems (EGS) affect the development of deep geothermal energy (DGE) in Switzerland. DGE is the extraction of geothermal energy from 2 to 5 km below earth surface. EGS is a type of DGE based on the stimulation of artificial reservoirs by hydraulic fracturing and water circulation in a closed circuit.

Based on an analysis of French-speaking Swiss newspapers from 1997 to 2015, I identify a regime of promising presenting EGS as a possibility to extract heat for power generation independently from tectonic formations. After the failure of a project that triggered an earthquake in Basel in 2007, the regime shifted towards promises of new technologies to control induced seismicity. I compare these promises to the ones linked to the development of hydrothermal energy, a form of DGE also explored in Switzerland, which requires the presence of aquifers with enough hot water.

Promises linked to EGS enable a framing in terms of technological innovation, experimentation and boldness. In contrast, promises of hydrothermal DGE frame its success in terms of acquiring precise knowledge of local conditions, systematic exploration and luck.

I argue that such framing contributes to secure R&D investments and political support for EGS despite the drawback of Basel and the existence of only two EGS demonstration power plants worldwide. More mature technologies linked to hydrothermal DGE appear as financially too risky in the Swiss context.

Promiss or perish ! Doing science by other means in the regime of promising

Author: Marc Audétat (University of Lausanne)  email

Short Abstract

This paper intends to set the scene of the regime of promising, and to discuss its issues for doing scientific research today, as well as for opening debate about possible sociotechnical futures.

Long Abstract

Unlike an institution, a regime lasts as long as the fluxes which feed it are maintened. In other words, how the regime of technoscientific promises came into place and what is supporting it ? Since the end of the cold war, emerging economies have been perceived as increasing economic competition. The knowledge economy and large programs of technoscientific research have been promoted to support economic growth and competitiveness. The share of competitive funds allocated to science and technology has continued to grow. These evolutions combined with the increase of PR and comunication by laboratories and with the success of ICTs and the Internet. The production and the circulation of promises became massive, bringing new technoscientific futures to public attention on a permanent base (Audétat et al., 2015).

Different from visions and imaginaries, promises suppose a market. Doing science, research, and knowledge production more generally, implies today to cope with a market of promises. In many respect, this market is speculative, tends to work for itslef, loosening ties with research and innovation. While some fields of industry are rather caracterised by a deficit of innovation.

The sociology of scientific promises is necessary to shed light on research policy and sociotechnical change. It is critical in order to engage with the public and open debate about options for the future. It makes room for new alliances with stakeholders and parts of society as a mode of collaborative research, for designing better ways of problematising science and societal needs and expectations.

Provided Promises and Accepted Promises of Korean First Astronaut Program

Author: Seungmi Chung (Virginia Tech)  email

Short Abstract

Korean Government provided promise of public involvement and social benefit by Korean First Astronaut Program. But, public understanding about the promises differed with government. The difference caused the program as failure. The research analyzes what the difference is and how/why it occurred.

Long Abstract

Emerging sciences including big science have performed by government until it becomes non-emerging science. Government plans, performs the program, and provides promises and rationales to the nation. Space program is one of these science.

Korean government has provided various rationales for space program. The rationales promised higher national pride, social benefit, and economic benefit. Scholars also argued Korean space program has promised modernization, self-defense, economic security, and national prestige. Korean First astronaut program started at this point.

As beginning of human space program, Korean government started the program with the goal of public promotion of science and technology. It promised that the nation is the member of scientific activities and the nation dreamed to participate in scientific activities as astronaut through it. As program has processed, government added some more promises including technology catch up and economic benefit on the previous promise. However, the Korean nation accepted the promises differently. It caused the serious critiques about program from the public and finally the program became failed and tabooed project in Korea.

This research argues that the different view about promises of program between Korean government and nation is the one important reason that the program became to be considered as failure. It examine what the difference is, how and why it occurred. Major methods of research are analysis of government documents, newspapers, and public response through online news. This research can be helpful to understand the misunderstanding of promise of emerging science affects the results of scientific program.

Regimes of techno-scientific promises - Drawing on lessons from the past to understand the current regime

Author: Pierre-Benoit Joly (INRA / UPEM)  email

Short Abstract

We have claimed in previous papers that the regime of techno-scientific promises has become dominant since the 70’s. Such a claim, however, does not draw on empirical evidence. The objective of this paper is to outline a research project that would fill this gap.

Long Abstract

We have claimed in previous papers that the regime of techno-scientific promises has become dominant since the 70's (Joly et al. 2010, Joly 2015). We argued that the pervasive influence of this regime is based on three interrelated elements. First, since the 70's, we live in a regime of historicity (Hartog, 2003) where future is contested and where the notion of progress is problematized. Second, in this context, research and innovation are very often presented as the obligatory passage point for addressing big societal challenges. The third element is related to New Public Management that creates a strong pressure for individuals and organizations to formulate promises on the ability of their research to address societal challenges.

Such a claim, however, does not draw on empirical evidence and hence. The objective of this paper is to explore the role of expectations, visions, and promises in the constitution of new technologies that were developed before the 70's. Two examples will be taken: the Green revolution and Nuclear Energy. Drawing on these examples, the aim is to identify similarities and differences in the making of promises, their circulations, and their reception. Beyond the interest of this empirical analysis as such, we will reflect on the way we can design a wider study of the changes of regime of techno-scientific promises before and after the 70's. This will also lead to a better understanding of the specificities of the current regime and its possible evolutions.

Reverse Boundary Work, Researcher Responsibility, and the Promise of Neural Technologies

Author: Matthew Sample ( Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal)  email

Short Abstract

The features of recent technoscience (e.g. interdisciplinarity) are often oriented towards increased responsiveness to the public, but some researchers in neural engineering cite these very features in order to distance themselves from promises of benefit.

Long Abstract

A researcher in neural engineering tells me, "There has to be some realization that we're doing translational research, and that requires a lot of partners." This statement came up in my own ethnographic research at the National Science Foundation Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering, which has the motto "improving lives by connecting brains and technology." The quotation and the motto, one organizational and the other promissory, illustrate a possible tension in recent technoscience. In this case, scientists and engineers cite the features of translational research, effectively reducing their individual responsibility to actually benefit persons with disabilities or spinal cord injury.

Scholars as diverse as Helga Nowotny, Yaron Ezrahi, and Alfred Nordmann have already noticed contemporary technoscience's "transdisciplinarity", increased justification to the public, and claims of artifice or control. These departures from the ideal of pure science, nominally, are ways to make technoscience responsive to society and its needs. But as promising to improve lives becomes the norm in neural engineering, I have observed researchers citing each other as "end users," emphasizing the power of industry and market, and generally dissolving the boundaries between neural engineering and its publics, a sort of reverse "boundary work" (Gieryn 1983).

Overall, I sketch a neural imaginary, part technoscientific (Marcus 1995) and sociotechnical (Jasanoff and Kim 2015), that combines a confident promise to erase human disability with an organizational blueprint that loses the individual researcher. I use this example to explore interactions between the regime of promising and new models for impactful science.

Strong coproduction: promissory technological futures and the heuristics of continuity

Author: Pierre Delvenne (University of Liège)  email

Short Abstract

This paper investigates the ‘heuristics of continuity’ in and across promissory regimes of S&T that produces lasting asymmetries of power. It argues that continuity across technological domains can be traced to a cornucopian sociotechnical imaginary of abundant knowledge and creative resources.

Long Abstract

STS are paying greater attention to the interactions between new technologies and politico-economic orders. Dynamics of promises and expectations with regard to technological developments, and their uptake, play a major role in shaping political-economic policies, institutional practices and wider societal mutations. The notion of "co-production" (Jasanoff 2004) was introduced to refer to the analysis of scientific and technological practices as reciprocally conditioning transformations of socio-political orders. This paper adopts a strong co-production (Joly 2015) approach as it postulates that there is 'heuristics of continuity' in and across promissory regimes of S&T that produces lasting asymmetries of power and reinforces 'imperial structures' (Stirling 2015). To attend such strong coproduction, 'micro' perspectives looking at situated social experiments have to be broadened to also engage 'macro' phenomena such as capital-labour relations, forms of 'neoliberalism' and citizen-consumer hybrids (Johnston 2008). The paper takes new manufacturing economy based on 3D printing technologies as a counterpoint to bioeconomy. Even though both political economies build on different promises, have different societal embeddings, and connect with different dominant narratives, it is argued that the continuity across technological domains can be traced to a cornucopian sociotechnical imaginary (Jasanoff and Kim 2015) of abundant knowledge and creative resources that create an imperative to invest in, share or protect new knowledge, technologies and human creativity for increasing market values and competitiveness. Activated against the backdrop of fabricated contexts of scarcity (of competitiveness, skilled workers, growth, ecological resources), this sociotechnical imaginary has powerful performative effects on sociotechnical relations, practices and engagements.

The daily life of techno-scientific promises: investigating the tensions between the regime of promising and research practices

Author: Béatrice Cointe (University of Oslo)  email

Short Abstract

Large interdisciplinary, application-oriented projects are one manifestation of the current regime of promising. Drawing on the ethnographic study of one such project in the field of bioenergy, we explore how this regime of promising affects scientific practices, especially in fundamental research.

Long Abstract

Research funding increasingly requires that research projects be oriented towards promising applications that correspond to expectations partly formulated outside the scientific realm, even for fundamental research. This shapes research priorities, scientific rhetoric, but also the organisation of scientific work. Large "promise-oriented" programmes tend to imply federations of scientific teams working across disciplines, and often involve a consideration of the socio-economic dimensions of potential - though sometimes highly speculative - outcomes.

This contribution will explore how and to what extent this "regime of promising" affects research practices via the ethnographic study of one project in bioenergy research. This project is somewhat emblematic of the regime of promising: it is a large interdisciplinary project (including social sciences), with fundamental and applied aspects, and claims to explore the potential of microbial bioenergy as a solution to energy challenges. At the same time, bioenergy is far from being the main interest of most teams involved, and the project is mostly expected to yield progress in fundamental microbiology and electrochemistry. It thus allows for the analysis of the multiple tensions between the actual development of emerging science and the promises that fund and orient it.

Relying on observation of lab work and project meetings, interviews, and the analysis of project documents, we will address the following questions: How do researchers compose with these promises? To what extent is scientific work affected by them, both in its organisation and in its inspiration? What can this project tell of the production and circulation of techno-scientific promises?

The UK smart meter rollout: Dynamics of expectations

Authors: Sabine Hielscher (University of Sussex)  email
Paula Kivimaa (University of Sussex)  email

Short Abstract

Smart meters have taken a prominent role in the UK government’s low carbon energy discourse over the past decade. Drawing on discourse analysis and examination of around 100 documents and supportive interviews, the paper analyses changes expectations for the smart metering roll out during 2000-2015.

Long Abstract

Smart meters have taken a prominent role in the UK government's low carbon energy discourse over the past decade. A substantial regulatory, policy and organisational apparatus has been established, setting in motion in 2016 the rollout of 53 million residential and non-domestic gas and electricity meters by 2020. The expectations of possible benefits for consumers and producers are described to be high. In addition, the rollout of smart meters links to broader visions of future electricity systems based on the smart grid. They are thus an element of an envisaged broader transformation of the electricity sector.

Drawing on a Hajer's discourse analysis and based on an examination of around 100 documents produced by multiple actors (such as activist groups, NGOs and policymakers) engaged in smart meters and supportive in-depth interviews, we examine the changing discourses surrounding the smart meter rollout, in particular, the ones linked to expectations within the period of 2000-2015. We make use of Konrad's (2010) conceptualisation of the 'governance by and of expectations' to examine the negotiations of competing expectations and the less formalised forms of expectation building. In doing so, we aim to contribute to the literature on the sociology of expectations. We explore how expectations have changed over time and, in particular, look at governance modes associated with the performative role of expectations within the UK smart metering rollout.

We (have to) feed the world. Promises and lock-in in agriculture

Author: Fanny Pellissier (IFRIS - Institut Francilien Recherche Innovation Société)  email

Short Abstract

This paper questions how this well-known promise, to feed the world, has underpinned the regime of intensive agriculture and performed concrete practices in farming routines, contributing to lock in the regime

Long Abstract

The creation of the European Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is based on promises listed in the Treaty of Rome in 1958. In particular, the planned increase in agricultural productivity, for example permitted by the use of chemical inputs such as pesticides, aimed at assuring the availability of supplies at reasonable prices for consumers. The markets were to be stabilized, the standard of living of famers were to be ensured. So at first European agriculture was turned to Europe and food supply for people after war's restrictions and starvation. However, a slight move quickly occurred and the first set of objectives was almost forgotten. From providing safe and cheap food to Europe, discourses switched to the need to feed the world. From then, farming activities in Europe expected and was expected to contribute to a better and healthier world. Traces of this shift can be found in archives of agricultural magazines of the 1970's, as a response to rising environmental criticism. It contributed to re-stabilize the regime. This leitmotiv is still common in current discourses.

This paper proposes to combine the promises and sociotechnical regime approaches. Building on the particular example of the pesticides regime, it aims at understanding how a promise shapes and contributes to the (re)stabilization of the regime. It questions how this well-known promise, to feed the world, has underpinned the regime of intensive agriculture and performed concrete practices in farming routines, contributing to lock in the regime.

When promises meet demands for translation, evidence and sustainability: the Balkanisation of personalised medicine

Author: Giovanni De Grandis (Norwegian Uni. of Science and Technology)  email

Short Abstract

Personalised medicine arguably emerged as hyped-up promissory science. These promises are now confronting the imperatives of translation, evidence-base and cost containment so prominent in healthcare, resulting in alternative and competing versions of personalised medicine and its promises.

Long Abstract

Personalized Medicine emerged in the late 1990s as a promise to revolutionise our approach to healthcare thanks to the breakthrough discoveries of genomics and molecular biology. Now an increasing body of literature is dealing with the problem of translating promises into actual clinical practices and health outcomes. Several challenges have been identified: external validation and effectiveness, collecting large data repositories and building adequate IT infrastructures, gaining clinicians' acceptance, adapting regulatory frameworks, securing adequate coverage from health insurances, establishing cost-effectiveness of new therapies, avoiding inequality of access, devising adequate models of consent, confidentiality and disclosure, educating the public and supporting patients' decision making. The demands of these challenges have generated different responses. An interesting trend, with numerous variations, is the attempt to combine genomic medicine with patient-centred care. Within this trend a watershed exist between those who see the process driven by technoscientific advances and see attention to patients as rather instrumental, and those who take patients' interests as central and are prepared to scale down substantially the promises and expectations of genomic medicine. This divide reflects a pre-existing tension between a biomedical model of medicine and a more humanistic and holistic view of medicine. For many decades medical technology has been accused to de-humanize medicine and to drive up costs unsustainably. Personalized medicine is currently a very fragmented and contested vision, that reflects different understandings of medicine, different strategies in rethinking promises and in balancing commitments to the interests of society and of the research community.

When the Future Never Comes: The Promises of AI

Author: Madeleine Elish (Columbia University)  email

Short Abstract

Based on fieldwork in the United States with AI researchers and commercial product managers, this paper analyzes how future capacities-yet-to-be-realized are mobilized as a source of anxiety and inspiration with respect to the value and validity of AI in society.

Long Abstract

This paper analyzes how the future is mobilized as a source of anxiety and inspiration with respect to the value and validity of AI in society. Based on fieldwork in the United States with AI (artificial intelligence) and robotics researchers as well as developers and product managers of commercial machine intelligence products, this paper examines how and why individuals negotiate explicit promises of functionality with implicit promissory capacities-yet-to-be-realized. In many ways, this is a reasonable and expected tension in technological innovation. However, what are some of the unexpected consequences of relying on a future-yet-to-realized? What other narratives of AI are being foreclosed? By placing these contemporary narratives in the context of immediate histories of AI (first-wave AI) as well as broader histories of artificial life (e.g. Riskin 2007), this paper attempts to articulate why promises in technological innovation continue to animate resources and public interest even as these promises are prone to fall short of expectations.

Who is the farmer in promises about biotechnology for development?

Authors: Koen Beumer (Utrecht University)  email
Sjaak Swart (Energy and Sustainability Research Institute Groningen)  email

Short Abstract

This paper discusses issues of credibility in promises about biotechnology for development. In particular, we investigate how subjects of development are constructed in diverging promises about biotechnology’s impact on development.

Long Abstract

This paper examines the regime of promising in the case of biotechnology for development by focusing on the figure of the smallholder farmer. The promise that agricultural biotechnology can benefit development is widely contested. This controversy revolves around diverging accounts of the impact of biotechnology on smallholder farmers, who are considered the main subjects of development (Stone & Flachs, 2014).

We investigate the different farmer subjectivities that are constructed in this controversy in Africa. Based on semi-structured qualitative interviews with a wide range of stakeholders in Kenya and South Africa, this paper demonstrates that the diverging assessments biotechnology's promise for development are rooted in different ideas about the smallholder farmer.

The paper will highlight that depending on how the farmers is constructed as subject of development, different forms of evidence are required for promises to be credible. For example, evidence about the decreasing pesticide requirements fall on deaf ears for those who consider farmers as guardians of cultural heritage while evidence of increasing farmers debts have little meaning for those considering farmers as agents in achieving national food security.

STS literature on emerging subjectivities in regimes of promising has predominantly focused on issues of democracy and the construction of publics (e.g. Irwin, 2006; Michael, 2009). By drawing upon anthropological literature on the construction of farmer identities (e.g. Burton, 2004; Haggerty et al., 2009; Schneider, 2015), this paper extends the scope of this literature to include emerging subjectivities in issues of development.

This track is closed to new paper proposals.