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Navigating FTA in a sea of expectations Harro van Lente Innovation Studies, Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Utrecht University ICIS, Maastricht.

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Presentation on theme: "Navigating FTA in a sea of expectations Harro van Lente Innovation Studies, Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Utrecht University ICIS, Maastricht."— Presentation transcript:

1 Navigating FTA in a sea of expectations Harro van Lente Innovation Studies, Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Utrecht University ICIS, Maastricht University The Netherlands The 4th International Seville Conference on Future-Oriented Technology Analysis (FTA) 12 & 13 May 2011

2 Navigating FTA in a sea of expectations Background Study of the WRR Scientific Council for Governmental Policy –reflecting on how foresight relates to policy practices –lists 240 Dutch foresight projects ( )

3 Navigating FTA in a sea of expectations Introduction The phenomenon –FTA is future-oriented – like any other practice! general sociological lesson: human action is geared towards the future (Weber, Mead, Schutz) individual, group, society –Future oriented technology assessments happen everywhere, continuously and informally firms, researchers, policy circles, society at large –…as if FTA is embedded in a sea of expectations The question –How to characterize this condition? –Implication of this condition for FTA practices?

4 Navigating FTA in a sea of expectations Method Literature review sociology of expectations »science and technology:future oriented par excellence »progress made in the last 20 years strategic management and technology roadmapping Participating in WRR project ( ) Observations from FTA in NanoNed Dutch research consortium universities, research institute, firms more than 200 PhD projects about 10 projects on Technology Assessment (CTA) intended interactions of CTA and other projects

5 Navigating FTA in a sea of expectations study of expectations Definition: expectations are circulating representations of the future statements, images,, graphs, terms within firms, research groups, policy, society collective expectations heterogeneous ingredients Starting point: the circulation of expectations has consequences

6 Navigating FTA in a sea of expectations Types and levels of expectations Expectations are about: materials firms strategies consumer behaviour policy shifts Expectations are collective in different ways: individual, groups, organisations, society more or less shared

7 Navigating FTA in a sea of expectations Sociology of expectations Expectations have consequences –performativity: statements that do something –statements can be descriptive, normative or performative –extreme case: self fulfilling prophecies (Merton) –performativity depends on social position (uncertainty trough) –what expectations do: –legitimate decisions (such as funding projects) –guide search activities (like heuristics) –coordinate (positioning ones work in the envisioned overall task –overall dynamics: from promise to requirement –technology does not start with problems but with promises –which can be taken up on in agendas (groups, firms, policy) –and lead to requirements –and protection to continue –with a next round.

8 Navigating FTA in a sea of expectations study of expectations The self-fulfilling prophecy is, in the beginning, a false definition of the situation evoking a new behavior which makes the original false conception come true. […] Such are the perversities of social logic. Merton 1948

9 Navigating FTA in a sea of expectations study of expectations "If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences William Isaac Thomas ( )

10 Navigating FTA in a sea of expectations Sociology of expectations Expectations have consequences –performativity: statements that do something –statements can be descriptive, normative or performative –extreme case: self fulfilling prophecies (Merton) –performativity depends on social position (uncertainty trough) –what expectations do: –legitimate decisions (such as funding projects) –guide search activities (like heuristics) –coordinate (positioning ones work in the envisioned overall task –overall dynamics: from promise to requirement –technology does not start with problems but with promises –which can be taken up on in agendas (groups, firms, policy) –and lead to requirements –and protection to continue –with a next round.

11 Navigating FTA in a sea of expectations Explicit steering with expectations Encompassing visions or Leitbilder –electronic superhighway, hydrogen economy Niches –protected space to foster a promise Yet, inherent ambivalence: promises should not become too specific –example: CUTE project in UK employing hydrogen (Eames e.a. 2006):.[Projecleaders are] living in a fools paradise to think that this is safe. When we were in grammar school laboratories, we were taught to treat hydrogen with respect. What I resent is the pressure from Europe to force one country to adopt this very dangerous technology Financial Times, 27 September 2003, cited in Eames ea. 2006).

12 Navigating FTA in a sea of expectations Formal and informal FTA FTA exercise can now be defined as a formal articulation of possible futures... embedded in or inundated by... an enormous set of informal articulations of futures

13 Navigating FTA in a sea of expectations Example: technology roadmapping Since the 1980s Motorola Lockheed-Martin Three levels: markets products technology A tool to produce of expectations Intended for internal learning of firms making informal expectations formal

14 Navigating FTA in a sea of expectations Two modes of dealing with expectations realist expectations are right or wrong decide whether they are justified expectations as psychological driver asymmetry analyst and actors (e.g. hype) constructivist expectations are accepted or abandoned decide whether they are robust as sociological / rhetorical force symmetry analyst and actors

15 Navigating FTA in a sea of expectations Dealing with hype: second order imitation

16 Navigating FTA in a sea of expectations Interaction formal and informal FTA Strategic positioning before Formal FTA tapping the repertoire of informal FTA Formal FTA adding to the repertoire of informal FTA Positioning after adds to the dynamics self fulfilling self denying

17 Navigating FTA in a sea of expectations Interaction formal and informal FTA Limits to formal FTA circulating images in informal FTA concepts of informal FTA causal chains available in informal FTA Enhancement of FTA due to recognition of images and terms due to confirmation of assumptions

18 Navigating FTA in a sea of expectations Conclusion FTA is enabled and constrained by ongoing expectations dynamics FTA is inherently strategic, due the performativity of expectations FTA is inherently vulnerable, due to the relationship between formal and informal loose relationship: when a formal FTA is surprising it is vulnerable since it is disconnected from the repertoires of the future that legitimize, steer and coordinate tight relationship: when a formal FTA is not surprising (repeating the repertoires) it is vulnerable because not seen as adding much value

19 Navigating FTA in a sea of expectations Outlook How to navigate FTA in the sea of expectations? at least: be aware of the performativity of expectations (reflexive) at least: be aware of the political aims (FTA is not just instrumental) SO, needed: clear sight and a compass

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21 Navigating FTA in a sea of expectations References Van Asselt (ed.) (2010), Uit zicht: toekomstverkennen met beleid, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press. Van Lente, H. and S. Bakker (2010), Competing expectations: the case of hydrogen storage technologies, Technology Analysis & Strategic Management. Vol 22 (6), Bakker, S, H. van Lente and M. Meeus (2011), Arenas of expectations for hydrogen technologies, Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Vol 78(1), Van Lente, H. (2010) Supporting and evaluating emerging technologies: a review of approaches, Int. J. Technology, Policy and Management, Vol. 10, No. 1/2, pp


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