Form: CTA is an attempt to broaden technology developments by including more aspects and more actors, and a way to overcome the institutionalised division of labour between promotion and control of technology. The separation of “promotion” and “control” of technology in our societies emerged in the 19th century and remains with us (Rip, Misa & Schot 1995). For newly emerging technologies like nanotechnology, which live on promises, CTA has to address uncertain futures. Organizing such workshops by CTA agents is theorized to be a soft intervention in ongoing developments, one that contributes to making ongoing co-evolution of science, technology and society more reflexive.

Means: CTA combines diagnosis of technology development dynamics and societal embedding with “soft” intervention. Analysis of, and insights into, these dynamics—including promises, expectations and emerging irreversibilities—can be translated into leverage for change. For emerging technologies, CTA combines (1) the building of sociotechnical scenarios of possible technological developments and the vicissitudes of their embedding in society and (2) the organizing and orchestration of strategy-articulation workshops with a broad variety of stakeholders (Schot and Rip 1997). The scenarios help to structure the discussion in the workshops (Robinson 2010) and stimulate learning about possible strategies (Parandian 2012). Ideally, CTA workshops will reflect dynamics in the wider world, functioning like a micro-cosmos, and allowing participants to mutually probe one another’s worlds. They allow participants to consider alternatives, modifications to their strategies and eventual real world interactions, without immediate repercussions. The scenarios speak to an enactor perspective, in their projection of further development of a new technology, but with unexpected shifts (for enactors) and repercussions. To the extent that stakeholders representing comparative selectors are present in the workshops, the scenarios are more likely to reflect what is at stake in the worlds of the participants. Scenarios must also offer challenges to participants’ understanding of the situation, so insights from social science (e.g., STS). CTA also has a larger scope in mind; its practitioners can thus seek to circulate in multiple settings, increasing reflexivity through anticipation.

Ends: CTA for new technologies aims to broaden design and development, at an early stage. Thus, it has an upstream bias: better outcomes result from doing better at an earlier stage. It is a bias, because it is the overall co-production process that leads to eventual outcomes, and not determinism. CTA arose as part of a larger perspective, laid down in the government’s Policy Memorandum on Integration of Science and Technology in Society (Ministerie van Onderwijs en Wetenschappen 1984), and positioned as part of an overall move towards more reflexive co-evolution of science, technology and society (Rip 2002). CTA aims to bridge the gap between innovation and the consideration of social aspects which inform attempts at “control”, and in doing so, broaden technology development and its embedding in society. It is “constructive” TA because it aims to be part of the construction of new technologies and their embedding in society. Broadening technology development and increasing reflexivity serve a purpose. Schot & Rip (1997) emphasized an overall goal served by CTA of a better technology in a better society. This is a substantive goal; the CTA objective of including more actors is often taken as advocating more participation, and thus, mistakingly, refer to a goal of democratization of technological development (Genus 2006; cf. also Callon et al. 2001 for an intermediate position). Learning in sectors and in society is a further overall goal, and stimulating such learning is a broad objective for CTA.

(With thanks to Arie Rip for this contribution)


Mike Gorman
05/19/2013 7:02am

Wanted to make you aware of the latest volume on this topic, which concludes with a discussion of how a multi-level, multi-site CTA could be conducted.

Early engagement and new technologies: Opening up the laboratory
Neelke Doorn, Daan Schuurbiers, Ibo van de Poel and Michael E. Gorman (Eds.)
Despite the topic’s urgency and centrality, this is the first edited volume to offer a comprehensive assessment of the varying approaches to early engagement with
new technologies, including nanotechnology, synthetic biology, biotechnology and ICT. Covering all five main approaches to early engagement—constructive technology assessment (CTA), value-sensitive design (VSD), midstream modulation (MM), network
approach, and moral imagination and scenarios—the book will be a pivotal text in the rapidly developing research field of ELSI, which explores the ethical, legal and social implications of new technologies.
Featuring leading scholars who discuss each early engagement approach in turn, the chapters cover both theory and applications, and include evaluative assessments of specific instances of early adoption of technologies. Further contributions focus on theoretical issues relevant to all approaches, including interdisciplinary cooperation,
normativity and intervention, and political and public relevance. The publication has added profile due to the requirement of multi-billion-dollar research programs in the US and Europe to engage in ELSI research alongside that of the technical development
itself, even in the early stages. Its comprehensive scrutiny of the core factors in early engagement will ensure a readership of policy makers as well as scientists and engineers.

Mike Gorman
05/19/2013 7:06am

The Doorn et al. volume will be published by Springer this year.


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