Tag Archives: Twente

Processing Citizenship. Digital registration of migrants as co-production of individuals and Europe


The “Processing Citizenship” project was funded in late 2016 as a Starting Grant by the European Research Council (ERC). Launched in March 2017, it is interested in how migration enacts Europe. As the project’s homepage goes (http://processingcitizenship.eu), this question can be legally and politically answered, as most policy-makers, sociologists and journalists do, or technically. How do data infrastructures for processing migrants and refugees co-produce individuals and Europe?

The project aims to extend to non-European citizens the study of how the digital circulation of data assets about populations and territory is re-enacting European governance along new boundaries (Pelizza, 2016). Historically, data infrastructures on populations and territories have contributed to the formation of the most powerful techno-social assemblage for knowledge handling – the nation-state (Agar, 2003; Foucault, 2007; Mitchell, 1991; Mukerji, 2011). The project asks how contemporary data infrastructures for processing migrants and refugees at the border, as well as inside Europe, shape the European order. As such, the project aspires to contribute to technology studies on the infrastructural construction of Europe (Misa and Schot, 2005).

“Processing Citizenship” is hosted by the Science, Technology and Policy Studies department (STePS), Faculty of Behavioural, Management and Social Science at the University of Twente. As such, it is deeply embedded in the STS core tradition of the department, while it addresses a new research field in governance by technologies under a mid-term transnational perspective.


Fig. 1: Early members of the Processing Citizenship team. From left to right: Chiara Andreoli, Annalisa Pelizza, Stephan Scheel, Annalisa Bacchi


Between summer and fall 2017, the Principal Investigator, Annalisa Pelizza, will be joined by an interdisciplinary team of five, including anthropologists, computer scientists and sociologists. Despite (or, more likely, thanks to!) the differences in background, the common goal has become to re-articulate the two main approaches to migration studies – i.e., ethnographic interest in migrants’ own experience and political science’s focus on policy challenges – by stressing how technological artefacts and infrastructures for “processing alterity” mediate the co-production of migrants and polities (Pelizza, Under review). Indeed, with “processing” we refer to the set of bureaucratic procedures through which the individual Other and institutional actors (i.e., as loci of power, be they Member States, Europe or incipient hybrid networks of agencies at different scales) are co-produced through the mediation of data infrastructures.

Drawing upon the “Vectorial Glance” research framework that conceives of government digitization as an entry point to detect incipient transformations in the order of authority (Pelizza, 2016), “Processing Citizenship” looks at data infrastructures as interfaces that can reveal transformations in late modern governance. Following the STS tradition, infrastructures as interfaces are conceived of as crystallizing relational processes. Therefore, they are both methodologically and theoretically relevant. Methodologically, recognizing data infrastructures as interfaces allows conceiving of them as analytical sites in which broader, heterogeneous processes become visible. Theoretically, it introduces a performative understanding which is missing in mainstream explanations of information technologies as causes of state disassembling.


The measure of alterity

The project is meant to throw light on how three types of identity are co-produced: migrants’ identities, polities and territory. The first set of questions asks which aspects of migrants’ life are measured, filled in the systems and come to constitute their digital identity when dealing with European actors.

Early evidence reveals the proliferation of databases, not only at European borders, but at any stage of alterity processing. Diverse information systems are run by diverse organizations (e.g., international organizations, national and local reception facilities, NGOs, medical organizations, European agencies), support diverse policies (e.g., contrast to trafficking, prevention of illness outbreaks, asylum), underpin diverse identity-building techniques. European Commission’s databases Eurodac and Dublinet, for example, deal with asylum applications and contain asylum seekers’ fingerprints. However, they record slightly different data: while Eurodac is a hit/no hit system and records only minimal data like name and fingerprint, Dublinet contains also more ‘soft’ data about a person’s life.

Different databases enact migrants in different ways, as individuals or as populations, as members of a family or as potential workers, as vulnerable persons or as potential perpetrators. While it is only by comparing data models that such differences become relevant, our team has encountered an unexpected lack in contemporary literature on the analysis of ontologies as texts (Bowker and Star, 1999), and is thus working towards developing new analytical methods in this field.

In this first stage of investigation, we are also interested in the chain of artefacts deployed at Hotspots that translate previous identities into new European-readable ones. This line of investigation is key in light of recent developments in the European migration landscape. The goal of the so called “Hotspot approach”, introduced in 2015, is to operationally support frontline Member States (i.e., Greece and Italy) in “swiftly identify[ing], register[ing] and fingerprint[ing] incoming migrants” (Commission, 2015a: 1). Hotspots are thus the first step in the procedure of sorting migrants into three alternative paths: “relocation” or “resettlement” to another Member State (for those identified as in clear need of international protection), or “return” to the country of legal residence (for those who are not deemed in need of protection). They can be conceived as “routers” that create “early entrenchments” (Star and Lampland, 2009) in sorting individuals, liminal situations in which past identities are assessed and translated into proto-decisions.

It is evident that routers do not work in a vacuum. Which material devices “speak for” the previous identity of the individual, and which database categorizations are decisive to be granted a future European identity are crucial questions that recall the material nature of such decisions. While EU policy documents mention specific criteria for relocation, resettlement and return, they might be partially “lost in translation” when it comes to embed policy into the different materiality of digital information systems, or vice-versa that new technical rigidities be introduced. For “Processing Citizenship”, there is a need to keep trace of similar trans-material shifts.

A further interest concerning how migrants’ identities are shaped deals with migrants’ own “dis-inscriptions” (Akrich and Latour, 1992). How do migrants interact with officers and data infrastructures? This point raises a series of questions about the status of migrants. What information would migrants need in order to behave in the new context? Which possibilities are foreseen for individuals to define, protect and release their digital identities? The way identities are crafted can allow or conversely restrain migrants’ potentialities to action. As Schinkel (2009) has noted, identities forced onto groups can also have empowering effects. “Processing Citizenship” thus asks which – if any – potentialities to action are enabled by the way migrants interact with their identities “inscribed” in information systems.


Novel orders of governance

The second set of questions investigates how European polities are shaped by alterity processing. According to studies on IT-enforced borders, biometrics has marked a shift from border management to identity processing. Nation states are said to have lost retention of control over physical borders. Access to welfare and redistribution rights has replaced territorial access, and become the bone of contention (Engbersen, 2003). As Amoore and De Goede (2008: 176) have put it, “the physical jurisdictional border seeps into data and databases.”

On the other hand, border studies have contested universalizing arguments about the disappearance of state boundaries (Paasi, 2005). By acknowledging the cultural and sociological “thickness” of boundaries, they have recognised state borders as important devices to attribute meaning to state institutions. Especially after 9/11 and the war of terror, state borders are seen as retrieving a key role in political studies.

For “Processing Citizenship”, however, the point is not so much establishing whether nation states retain more or less control over their physical borders, but to investigate which loci of power are constituted by bureaucratic practices of data circulation. As historians of technology have recalled, the construction of infrastructural Europe was characterized by the proliferation of new, non-governmental actors (Schot and Schipper, 2011). Which loci of power are emerging from practices of alterity processing? A revised version of the nation state, maybe with sub-national units been granted new powers? A more centralized configuration of Europe? Or even a novel distributed techno-social network made of public agencies and private contractors at different scales? Understanding how data about migrants and refugees are collected and circulate across European, national and local agencies is one way to answer these questions that reveals unexpected de facto geographies. As these latter are not easily representable on maps, Processing Citizenship plans to develop new forms of visualization of such geographies.

Current European responses to migration are indeed not only sorting migrants out, but activating multi-level institutional dynamics. On one hand, European institutions are asking for common standards, protocols and classification systems by Member States. The rationale is that if Europe wants to keep the Schengen system going, then it has to strengthen its outer borders, and data gathered at those borders should be standardized and made available Europe-wide. On the other hand, Member States might try to resist technical standardization. For example, in September 2015 the European Commission adopted 40 infringement decisions against Member States who did not register migrants at EU borders (Commission, 2015b). Here, the definition of “registration” is crucial, as at the European Commission level it usually refers to registration on European databases, but in other contexts it might also well refer to national databases, which are not always interoperable with European infrastructures. This evidence suggests that access to databases is an important aspect that defines new types of boundaries that do not necessarily coincide with existing political and administrative ones.


Conclusion – A history of the present?

All in all, by looking at itself as a new chapter in the studies on the infrastructural construction of Europe, “Processing Citizenship” eventually aims to conduct a history of the present. In order to explain this ambition, let us conclude with a quote from Foucault:

“History is a given way for a society to acknowledge and process a bunch of documents from which it cannot separate anymore […] Traditionally, history tried to memorise past monuments into documents. […] Today, history is that activity that transforms documents into monuments” (Foucault, 1969: 15)

We suggest that analysing alterity processing as part of Europe building is a way to keep track of how documents are transformed into monuments. While histories of technology can methodologically rely on that form of textual reproduction of memory which is the archive, in the case of Processing Citizenship – dealing with not yet stabilized developments – the methodological function of archives is fulfilled by oral memories (collected through interviews), practices (accessed through observation), legislative and design document and data logs.

The reason to keep track of the transformation from documents into monuments is suggested by the fact that data infrastructures are mainly developed by contractors who, not being bound to public service duties, are not likely to see value added in creating archives, not even when it comes to practices of population ordering that are expected to have a say in how Europe is going to be built. In this sense, we suggest that “Processing Citizenship” and other similar projects that look not at data per se, but at the architecture for data collection, translation and circulation, are attempting to conduct “histories of the present”.

Constructive Technology Assessment – STS for and with Technology Actors

Over the years, STS has more and more moved from a predominant analytical gaze to engaging with the very fields and processes it is concerned with. At the University of Twente, STePS researchers have early on embarked on this road, with a key strand having evolved under the heading of Constructive Technology Assessment (CTA). While the core ideas were developed 30 years ago (Schot and Rip, 1997; Rip et al., 1995; Rip et al., 1987), the practical approaches and specific aims have clearly developed over time and – we expect – will continue to do so in the future. In what follows, we want to briefly explain the key characteristics of the approach, report on some recent projects and discuss our current attempts to move CTA from the field level to the work floor of researchers and technology actors, and close with an outlook on further directions for developing the approach.

Core Characteristics and Socio-Technical Scenarios

Constructive Technology Assessment emerged on the one hand from a concern to turn insights from STS actionable in the development of technologies. On the other hand, it builds on the field of technology assessment – as the term indicates – and aims to mobilize insights on co-evolutionary dynamics of science, technology and society for anticipating and assessing technologies, rather than being predominantly concerned with assessing societal impacts of a quasi-given technology. In addition, it shifts the focus from policy advice to (soft) intervention in the ongoing construction and societal embedding of technologies (see Rip and Robinson, 2013 for an analytical overview). Thus, CTA approaches involve stakeholders and typically include a step of analysis of ongoing processes and dynamics in a specific technology field, which draw on varying conceptual perspectives from science, technology and often also innovation studies. There have been extensive studies of social experiments with electric cars in the 1990s (Hoogma, 2000), some limited studies of micro-optics, and concerted work on nanotechnology (Rip and van Lente, 2013). Which conceptual lenses are used and which (scope of) processes are considered – innovation dynamics, use practices, governance interventions, developments within a field or its context, whether a whole technology field is addressed or a specific artefact – differs from project to project. This analytical step is often also an important base for studying the socio-technical dynamics in their own right.

Forms of intervention can differ, and here is not the space to expand on the full breadth. One form which has proven both doable and appreciated in various cases, includes the development of socio-technical scenarios as an input to stakeholder workshops. These scenarios typically start with the analysis of current and recent developments and then expand into the future, exploring different directions how the observed dynamics may further unfold, but also, how strategic and governance actions may play out and interrelate, or how different actor groups may react -as a means to stimulate reflexive consideration of broader developments and their interrelations than actors in the field would consider in their day-to-day concerns (Parandian and Rip, 2013; Rip and Te Kulve, 2008). In the CTA workshops we then aim to convene stakeholders from different backgrounds, who often enough turn out not to be familiar with many of the perspectives and considerations of other parties (so the workshops are occasions to let them probe each other’s worlds), and discussion is geared towards issues at stake and dilemmas that emerged from the preceding analysis.

By way of example, a project on nanotechnology-based sensor technologies in food and water explored directions for application and user requirements, but also the past and possible future processes which led and may lead to the emergence and further specification of user needs. It clearly turned out that user needs were not ‘given’, but rather that ‘demand articulation’ was an ongoing process, depending not only on dynamics on the use side, but rather on processes across the sector (Te Kulve and Konrad, 2017b; Te Kulve and Konrad, 2017a). More specifically, a stronger early-stage involvement of regulators was identified as a possible way forward.

This study approached the subject at the cross-section of a technology field with sectoral dynamics, and resided largely in the world of businesses. Other CTA studies were more concerned with the different perceptions and assessments of roles and responsibilities of different stakeholders and in particular patients of new medical devices that in different shades provide opportunities and requirements for patients for increased self-management. These examples also focused in more detail on (the design of) specific products, rather than a whole field (Maathuis, 2014; Krabbenborg, 2013).


Socio-technical scenario


Mainstreaming CTA to the work floor

The CTA approach in the forms described so far, poses quite some requirements, in terms of research time, STS expertise, workshop preparations, and engagement of participants. Accordingly, many of the projects have been part of PhD or postdoc projects. In the context of recent ambitions to broaden and enhance the consideration of the societal role of science and technology as a regular element of research and innovation processes, largely emerging related to initiatives under the heading of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI), a new challenge arises.

The general rationale of CTA strongly resonates with the ambition of RRI (Fisher and Rip, 2013). However, for integrating CTA elements across a wide range of research and innovation projects and in a way that it closely involves the technical researchers themselves creates new and challenging frame conditions. This has been exactly the situation we faced in the Dutch nanotechnology research programme NanoNextNL where the ambition has been, clearly stated by the chairman of the programme, to have all researchers involved consider the societal impact of their research themselves (Walhout and Konrad, 2015; Volkskrant, 2011). While the mentioned CTA project for sensor technologies was part of the NanoNextNL programme, the same approach could not be applied to all (hundreds of) projects in the programme. As a way forward, the team of researchers in NanoNextNL who were conducting risk analysis and technology assessment projects set up a course targeted at the PhD students in the programme, which aimed at making the researchers aware of relevant potential risks, societal and ethical implications and prerequisites of their work. Ideally, PhD students were then supposed to dedicate a part, e.g. a chapter, of their thesis to further addressing the identified topics an early attempt to do so is (den Boer et al., 2009). Making in particular the latter happen and providing for the necessary supervision, was surely a challenge, as this had not been provided for in the original set-up of the programme and not all main supervisors were supportive of this type of activities; hence, in practice it wasn’t followed as widely as indicated by the initial ambition. Still, several of the PhD students did so, conducting for instance CTA-inspired workshops, in which they explored with different types of actors potential applications of their research work and the prerequisites and implications thereof (Schulze Greiving et al., 2016). One of them decided to follow this route further, and embarked on a postdoc project in the STePS department. The main aim of this project was to further develop a ‘CTA toolbox’ that builds on analysis and methods derived from STS and innovation studies, but presents and tailors these in a format which is easier accessible, understandable and doable for technical researchers (Schulze Greiving and Konrad, 2017).1 In the meantime we have applied these ‘tools’ in diverse contexts, from bachelor students to senior researchers exploring future research directions.


Courtesy of Gijs van Ouwerkerk


This move towards a ‘mainstreaming’ of CTA-type activities to the work floor of researchers is much in line with the overarching CTA rationale, but does not come without tensions, as supposedly all of the many colleagues involved in similar endeavors will know all too well. On the one hand, we have recently seen quite some openings for these activities; the activities in NanoNextNL were one of them, another is the recent educational policy of the University of Twente to include a substantial element of ‘reflective education’ throughout all the (largely technical) bachelor programmes. Similar approaches in different shades have been adopted by other technical universities, and the number of research and innovation projects which require a broadening up is expected to increase. At the same time, this development is also contested, particularly at the work- and lab-floor, and does not always go along easily with a number of the practical and disciplinary structures of technical researchers. Thus, tailoring our approaches to the real-world constrains what these openings can do in practice, and requires a constant balancing and experimenting to what extent and in which ways we can and want to adjust concepts and methods to achieve the goal of soft intervention for broadening technology development in a meaningful way.


The situations and forms described are not meant to offer a comprehensive overview of the different conditions CTA may need to be again and again tailored to. Further challenges to situate the approach of CTA arise when CTA is to be conducted productively in different global settings, taking due account of local political and discursive cultures, and possibly different sociotechnical dynamics, an issue which becomes more and more salient also for us as STePS researchers, as we are increasingly working in globally dispersed and connected projects.

Engaged Science, Technology and Policy Studies – The Twente Approach

Fig. 1: University of Twente, Netherlands. ©UT, Evelien Bonte


Short account of a seminal legacy

Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) generate sites for articulation, contestation, navigation, negotiation, and change in modern (and other) societies. STS aims to understand and conceptualize the material, social, intellectual, political and moral dynamics of STI in society. Some STS groups also get involved in the active shaping of technology and innovation. Our department of Science, Technology, and Policy Studies (STePS) at the University of Twente (UT), the Netherlands, ventures to combine theory, critical analysis and active intervention in real-world spaces for articulation and negotiation. While contributing to the institutionalization of STS, STePS (and its predecessors) has also ventured to ‘extitutionalize’, focusing on “opening up provisory spaces for establishing new connections.” 1

This ambition builds on a tradition rooted in the young, technically oriented UT (est. 1962). In 1975 a ‘Centre for Studies of Science, Technology and Society’2 was formed, focusing on issues of technology in society (such as nuclear energy), increasingly also analyzing and engaging in actual development processes of technologies (e.g. health technology and renewable energy technology). When Arie Rip assumed the chair ‘Philosophy of Science and Technology’ in 1986 he linked efforts at UT with other Dutch and international sites of early STS.3
Soon he, together with a growing group of ambitious young scholars in Twente, developed seminal concepts for a constructivist, intervention-oriented understanding of STI in society, such as ‘post-modern research systems’ (with B. van der Meulen)4, modes of ‘Constructive Technology Assessment’ as a response to the “Collingridge Dilemma” (with J. Schot),5 and the roles of ‘socio-technological regimes’ and options for ‘transition management’ (with J. Schot, R. Kemp, F. Geels).6
In 1995, Rip’s chair was complemented by a chair in ‘Science and Technology Studies, with a focus on gender and technology’. Chair holder Nelly Oudshoorn made seminal contributions to the STS community’s understanding of the co-construction of technologies and users, particularly in relation to medical technologies and information and communication technologies, based on thorough ethnographic research.7
During the same period historians of science and technology also joined the group; Lissa Roberts, whose work traces the historical evolution and transgressions of the boundaries between ‘science’, ‘technology’, and ‘society’, was made chair for ‘Long-term Development of Science and Technology’ in 2009.8
In 2005 the current department STePS was established, now including a chair ‘Knowledge and Public Policy’, held by Robert Hoppe, exploring the governance of problems and the role of scientific expertise in policy-making.9
Upon Rip’s retirement in 2006, Stefan Kuhlmann joined the group and soon became head of department. With his background in political science and the governance of technology and innovation, Kuhlmann places emphasis on the study of and intervention in the politics and policies of technology and innovation in society.10 During the last ten years STePS has focused its work on “Navigating Technosciences and Innovation in Society.

Linking governance studies, innovation studies and STS, the STePS group covers quite a broad scope of conceptual perspectives and empirical fields. Our research and teaching are strongly interlinked with other disciplines, particularly with technological domains at the UT (nanotechnology, ICT, health technology). While our critical, constructivist and interventionist approach is welcomed by many partners, it can also produce tension. Mostly, though, such tension has fostered mutual learning and enhanced creativity.

STePS’ approach has also led to strong involvement in major international collaborative research projects, often funded by the EU; projects that are not per se STS oriented, but where we aim to introduce STS perspectives and insights into ‘mainstream’ research. The same can be said about our considerable engagement with public policymakers in STI, on national, European and international levels: senior STePS scholars have been playing influential roles in setting new policy agendas.

Consequently, the interdisciplinary mission and engagement of STePS, its study of the dynamics and governance of STI, have been praised by international evaluation panels (2009; 2015) as excellent, highly relevant and internationally leading.


Fig. 2: STePS meeting October 2017
©UT, Evelien Bonte


Current focus 

We take the emergence (past and future) and politics of science, technologies, and innovations in globally diverse societies as our vantage point for research and teaching. Consequently, STePS acts as a cross-disciplinary go-between of social sciences, humanities and techno-sciences. Research and related education link analytical and normative perspectives, and consider innovations in governance alongside technological innovations. Currently STePS is active in three inter-linked research areas (see graph). They are concerned with a better understanding of STI vis-à-vis societal challenges, related change, and the (potential) contribution of ‘non-traditional’ actors such as Civil Society Organisations and ‘users’. And they explore modes of experimentation and learning, informed by theory-driven empirical research, with the help of a broad spectrum of qualitative (e.g. ethnographic) and quantitative methodologies. Below we briefly introduce the areas and illustrate them with examples of recent and current work.


Fig. 3: STePS’ research focus and main themes.



Navigating Technosciences in Society: Analysis, Anticipation and Assessment

We are particularly interested in processes at the meso level, such as technological fields, sectoral dynamics, and innovation journeys. We combine analysis of ongoing dynamics and the ways in which socio-technical futures are imagined and acted upon, with approaches as Constructive Technology Assessment (CTA) that turn these insights into starting points for scenario-building and engagement with stakeholders.11 Key contributors in this research area are Kornelia Konrad, Stefan Kuhlmann, Klaasjan Visscher, Katrin Hahn, Verena Schulze Greiving, Ellen van Oost.

A recent set of projects has been conducted as part of the Dutch nanotechnology research programme “NanoNextNL” (2006-2016). We investigated visions and requirements around the use of sensor technologies in the food and water sector, with a focus on how collective processes at sector level contributed to ‘demand articulation’ – rather than addressing mainly the dynamics in user communities, or user-producer interactions more common in STS research so far. We used these insights to develop scenarios and discuss and assess future perspectives with suppliers, users and regulators. A similar approach was taken for nanobased technologies in lighting. In a further project, we tailored and used our approach of CTA in a way that it becomes applicable at the level – and under the constraints – of technical research projects, which we consider an important prerequisite towards ‘mainstreaming’ of broader social considerations in technical research – as one form of responsible research and innovation. A third project investigated how diverse anticipatory practices played out in the governance and the impressive rise of technoscientific fields as graphene and 3D printing. (Main contributors are K. Konrad, V. Schulze Greiving, C. Alvial Palavicino, B. Walhout, S. Kuhlmann, H. te Kulve)

“Industrial Innovation in Transition (IIT)” (2015-2017) was the subject of a major EU H2020 project. With four international partners we studied the practices and processes of how companies innovate and anticipate their future environment by making use of and strategically shaping extended innovation ecosystems. The study builds on a dataset of qualitative interviews of almost 700 high-level managers of European companies, and considers in how far the rationales of common innovation policy instruments correspond to the actual innovation practices currently used in the companies. (K. Konrad, K. Hahn, K. Visscher, S. Kuhlmann)

The NWO funded project “Community Innovation for Sustainable Energy: Aligning Social and Technical Innovation” (2016-2019) studies how new local oriented energy innovations like smart microgrids and local energy storage can empower local energy communities and strengthen their transformative capacity towards a sustainable and resilient energy production and use. We aim to gain insight into how techno-moral issues like privacy, inclusion, autonomy, and ownership of energy are co-shaped in these dynamics. (E. van Oost, B. Koirala)

Governance and Politics of STIS

Science, technology and innovation are both key resources and causes for concern in society, the economy and public policy. Research on the politics and governance of knowledge and innovation analyzes transformation processes of research and innovation systems, the various modes of governance and policy making in this transformation and the processes by which expert knowledge contributes to policymaking and innovation. Beyond academic analysis we are also involved in the design and implementation of governance and policy initiatives in national, European and international arenas. Key contributors in this research area are Stefan Kuhlmann, Annalisa Pelizza, Peter Stegmaier, Gonzalo Ordonez-Matamoros.


Fig. 4: Stefan Kuhlmann and colleagues
©UT, Evelien Bonte


  • “Res-AGorA. Responsible Research and Innovation in a Distributed Anticipatory Governance Frame”, a EU-funded project with eight European partners (2013-16), took the fluid and contested nature of ‘responsible’ research and innovation as a starting point. Res-AGorA developed a framework to guide the process of governing towards higher levels of responsibility in research and innovation (“Responsibility Navigator”), where the normative content is negotiated by the actors themselves as part of a continuous process of reflexive, anticipatory and responsive adaptation of research and innovation to changing societal challenges. (S. Kuhlmann, B. Walhout, G. Ordonez)
  • “Governance of Discontinuation of Sociotechnical Systems (DiscGo)” (2012-2017). This project funded by Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) with four international partners aims at a better understanding of the governance of the abandonment of socio-technical systems: What does discontinuation mean as a problem of action for policy-makers? (P. Stegmaier, S. Kuhlmann)
  • “Processing Citizenship: Digital Registration of Migrants as Co-production of Citizens, Territory and Europe”. How does migration enact Europe? Intensifying migration waves are changing not only EU policies, but also the way knowledge about individuals, institutions and space is created. This is the point of departure of an ERC Starting Grant five-year project (2017-2022) involving a team composed of sociologists, ethnographers, software developers and policy analysts. 12 (A. Pelizza, S. Scheel, A. Bacchi, C. Andreoli and others)
  • Several PhD projects are investigating “Politics and Governance of STI in Emerging Economies”, currently focusing on Colombia. The emerging ‘post-colonial’ perspective will enrich STIS both on the Global South and North. (G. Ordonez, S. Kuhlmann)

Long-term Development of STIS

This research theme has two interactive aims. Stretching out from past to future, the first aim is to trace out the long term development of STIS in ways that reveal both the specific peculiarities and broader patterns that inform its dynamic character over time. As such the intention is not simply to provide background and context for contemporary and future-oriented research carried out within the department and the study of STIS more generally. It seeks to demonstrate that the phenomena and processes we study and which are subject to policy consideration, can only be properly appreciated and governed when their combined temporal and spatial character are understood. The second aim is to understand the very categories we use to organize our research – science, technology, governance, innovation, (o)economy and so forth – as historical phenomena whose definitions and implications have changed (and will continue to change) over time and across space. Key contributors in this research area are Lissa Roberts, Fokko Jan Dijksterhuis, Adri Albert de la Bruheze, Andreas Weber.

  • “Technologies in Use: Infrastructures, Maintenance and Labor from Early Industrialization to Tomorrow” is a two year (2017-2019) international research network co-funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) and a number of international partners. It is directed toward producing a narrative that explains the dynamic relationship between technology and societies around the world since the late eighteenth century, based on the understanding that innovation actually constitutes only one aspect of that relationship. (L. Roberts, A. Albert de la Bruheze)
  • “The Cultural Politics of Sustainable Urban Mobility, 1890-Present” (2015-2018) is an international research network co-funded by NWO and a number of international partners. By drawing on cases of long term development, it seeks to contribute to current debates regarding how urban mobility can transition into a sustainable system. An important outcome is the much acclaimed co-edited volume Cycling Cities: The European Experience – Hundred Years of Policy and Practice (2016). (A. Albert de la Bruheze)
Fig. 5: Lissa Roberts and colleagues
©UT, Evelien Bonte


  • “Making Sense of Illustrated Handwritten Archives” (2016-2019), is a Digital Humanities project co-funded by NWO and Brill Publishers. In partnership with internationally leading specialists in AI and cognitive engineering it has two aims. Concretely, it involves developing an advanced and user-friendly online service for searching digitized illustrated handwritten collections. Simultaneously it examines the potential of such collaborations to increase both our research capabilities and understanding of the interface between artificial intelligence, processes of interpretive cognition and preservation of heritage. (L. Roberts, A. Weber)


Fig. 6: STePS group.
©A. Weber collage based on image Rijksmuseum Amsterdam



STePS (and precursors since the 1970s) has the mission to teach the dynamics, governance and options for shaping science, technology and innovation in society on an interdisciplinary basis, particularly for the UT technical faculties. In the ‘Twente Model’ for undergraduate education students are trained as researchers and designers, with an eye for the societal embedding and implications of their work. STePS is a key contributor to this ‘reflection education’. We are also strongly involved in UT’s University College ATLAS, an honours programme for talented students, bringing technology and society together. We further offer the course ‘Governance and Ethics of Technology’ at UT’s international ‘CuriousU’ summer school.


Fig. 7: Campus life, University of Twente.
©UT, Evelien Bonte


In graduate education STePS and the Philosophy Department jointly offer a two-year international Master’s programme ‘Philosophy of Science and Technology (PSTS), meant for anyone who is interested to develop an interdisciplinary understanding of and become involved in guiding the role of technology in broader social contexts. The PSTS programme is designed for students with technical, philosophical and social science backgrounds. Further graduate education is offered for the Master programmes Nanotechnology, Chemical Engineering, Industrial Design, Public Administration, and Business Administration.

As part of the Twente Graduate School, STePS runs the programme ‘Governance of Knowledge and Innovation’ for Master and PhD students. Also, STePS is a key contributor to an (emerging) ‘Global PhD Platform’, an effort for attracting and supervising PhD students from the Global South.

As of 2018, the UT and STePS will host and lead the Dutch national PhD school ‘Wetenschap, Technologie en moderne Cultuur, WTMC’, internationally much acclaimed as a role model. STePS scholars and their predecessors have always played active roles in WTMC, a collective effort based in the Netherlands to study the development of science, technology and modern culture from an interdisciplinary perspective. In 2016 WTMC received the 4S Infrastructure Award and in 2017 an international evaluation panel rated WTMC “one of the few most influential graduate schools in the world within the field of science, technology and innovation studies (STIS).”

International Collaboration

STePS scholars are highly engaged in the international communities of STIS, through numerous collaborative research projects, multiple publication efforts, and active contribution to academic and professional associations, among them the “European Association for the Study of Science and Technology (EASST)”, the “Society for Social Studies of Science (4S)”, the “European Forum for Studies of Policies for Research and Innovation” (Eu-SPRI Forum), the “Society for the Studies of New and Emerging Technologies (S.NET)”.

The international standing and appreciation of STePS scholars is emphasized by their leading roles in important academic journals such as »Research Policy«, (Editor S. Kuhlmann), »Tecnoscienza« (Editorial Board A. Pelizza) or »History of Science« (Editor-in-Chief L. Roberts).


Fig. 8: Some STePS colleagues.
©UT, Evelien Bonte



As claimed at the start of this short account of STePS’ pedigree and current work, the Twente Approach aims to combine engaged STIS and Governance Studies and intervention in the development of technology and innovation in society.

We anticipate that this critical and interventionist mission in the future will become even more important and appreciated in a university of technology as the UT. In the Netherlands, in Europe and beyond we see a growing number of academic sites engaging in social challenge and needs-driven experimentation, co-design and co-development of technology and innovation in society. At the same time, in public policy arenas there is increasing demand for transformative policy and governance concepts.13

Conceptually, we envisage a further integration of concepts and lenses from STS, innovation studies, governance, and long-term perspectives, in order to sharpen our understanding of technology from research and innovation to its integration into societal practices and structures, its governance and governance effects. A phenomenon like digitalization can hardly be grasped, other than by considering its actual manifestation in practice, from industry to e-health, and from the politics of code to policies.

We expect the Twente-borne CTA-approach14 to be further enlarged in scope – e.g. geographically or from technical to service innovations, requiring at the same time a need for further situating and tailoring of our methods to different conditions.

Most importantly, such future interventions will have to draw on capacities for a long-term analysis of socio-technical configurations, both from a historical perspective and with advanced foresight methodologies and procedures.

Not least, this analytical-interventionist work will be developed with a global perspective, acknowledging the mutual interdependencies of former “first” and other worlds, reflected especially in emerging global socio-technical infrastructures.15


1 Farias I (2017) O EASST Review lovers, where art thou? On STS as extitution. EASST Review: Volume 36(2) July 2017.

2 For a short history of the “Boerderij“ see http://www.utoday.nl/news/51771/bruggenbouwer_tussen_maatschappij_en_technologie

3 E.g. Callon M, Rip A and Law, J (eds). (1986) Mapping the dynamics of science and technology: Sociology of science in the real world. Springer.

4 Rip A and Van der Meulen BJ (1996) The post-modern research system. Science and public policy, 23(6): 343-352.

5 Schot J and Rip A (1997) The past and future of constructive technology assessment. Technological forecasting and social change, 54(2-3): 251-268. Collingridge D (1982) The social control of technology.

6 Rip A and Kemp R (1998) Technological change. In: Rayner S. and Malone L (eds) Human Choice and Climate Change, Vol. 2, Resources and Technology, Washington DC: Battelle Press: 327-399.

7 Oudshoorn N (2003) The male pill: A biography of a technology in the making. Duke University Press; Hyysalo S, Jensen TE and Oudshoorn N (eds) (2016) The New Production of Users: Changing Innovation Collectives and Involvement Strategies (Vol. 42). Routledge.

8 Roberts LL, Schaffer S and Dear P (2007) The Mindful Hand. Inquiry and Invention from the Late Renaissance to Early Industrialisation. History of Science and Scholarship in the Netherlands (9).

9 Hoppe R (2011) The governance of problems: Puzzling, powering and participation. Policy Press.

10 E.g. Smits RE, Kuhlmann S and Shapira P (eds) (2010) The theory and practice of innovation policy. Edward Elgar Publishing; Kuhlmann S and Ordóñez-Matamoros G (eds) (2017) Research Handbook on Innovation Governance for Emerging Economies: Towards Better Models. Edward Elgar Publishing.

11 See Konrad et al, Constructive Technology Assessment – STS for and with Technology Actors, this issue of EASST Review.

12 See Pelizza A, Processing Citizenship. Digital registration of migrants as co-production of individuals and Europe, this issue of EASST Review.

13 Kuhlmann S and Rip A (2017) Next Generation Innovation Policy and Grand Challenges. Science and Public Policy (paper accepted for publication).

14 See Konrad et al, this EASST Review.

15 See e.g. Pelizza, this EASST Review.