Accepted paper:

Towards a multidimensional study of innovation.


Apostolos Spanos (University of Agder)

Paper short abstract:

The paper proposes a study of innovation as (a) a content, (b) a process, (c) a historical situation, (d) a phenomenon, and (e) a concept. It also proposes a historical approach to innovation based on historical temporalities and a conceptual approach related to Sartori's "ladder of abstraction".

Paper long abstract:

The paper focuses on theoretical blind spots in the study of innovation and the current discourses. It is based on the hypothesis that innovation has become the recent decades an "essentially contested concept" (Gallie 1956). Innovation discourses seem to overlook the complexity of innovation, as both a phenomenon and a concept. Defining innovation has been, more often than not, limited to dictionary-type definitions, approaching innovation in a unidimentional way, responding to the needs of the current student. The paper proposes and discusses five different approaches to innovation, namely as (a) a content, i.e. an idea, a practice, or an artefact; (b) a process (of implementation, adoption, adaptation of an idea/practice/artefact); (c) a historical situation (as the Koselleckian Zustand); (d) a phenomenon, in other words how an innovation is experienced by the unit of adoption and/or the social units around it; and (e) a concept, i.e. the synchronic and diachronic onomasiology and semasiology of terms related to innovation. A central working question is whether both the theoretical and the practical innovation discourses need, accordingly, five different definitions of and approaches to innovation. Furthermore, the paper approaches innovation as a historical phenomenon by taking into consideration theories of historical layers and temporalities. Another working question is related to the more general concepts, or phenomena, in relation to which innovation may be understood better. In other words where should innovation be placed in a relevant "ladder of abstraction" (see Sartori 1970).

panel T071
Innovation: Discourses, politics, societies, and blind spots