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Message posted on 25/02/2020

REMINDER STS, Technoscience and How Discontinuation Matters - Call for abstracts EASST/4S 2020 Prague

Dear colleagues,

We would be pleased to welcome you to our panel on STS, Technoscience and How Discontinuation Matters (Open Panel 169) at EASST/4S Conference 2020 in Prague. We, convening this panel, are Peter Stegmaier (University of Twente; Science, Technology and Policy Studies group), Pierre-Benoît Joly (IFRIS-LISIS), Phil Johnstone (SPRU; Science Policy Research Unit, The Sussex Energy Group).

If interested, please, submit your paper through the conference platform (www.easst4s2020prague.org/accepted-open-pannels/).

Deadline for abstract submission: February 29th, 2020
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us:
p.stegmaier@utwente.nl, joly@inra-ifris.org, P.Johnstone@sussex.ac.uk.

Panel description:
Abandonment of technologies and socio-technical systems occur not infrequently. A state agency like the NASA has a long track of stopping systems before or after start-up (e.g., the Space Shuttle system programme 1972–2011, or the Project Apollo 1961–72 after years of usage, whereas the permanent moon base, aka ‘Lunar outpost’ was halted in 2010 after four years before being taken into use). The “Walkman”, the formerly ubiquitous sign of youth, coolness, and affinity to latest technology and popular culture has (nearly) disappeared in most parts of the world. The incandescent light bulb has even been banned from production in many countries, including the entire European Union. Companies cancel the development or production of devices, technologies and systems we were used to (e.g., in 2011 Siemens exited from building nuclear power plants). Heated, if not violent struggles accompanied the political process to exit from coal energy production in Germany during the summer of 2018. Investors are divesting from fossil fuels. Cities are banning cars using combustion engines for Diesel and petrol; Amsterdam also promoting gas free homes. VHF radio broadcast is counted, as well as in some legal areas animal testing, cloning. Landmines are banned – just to mention one example of military technology.
The social construction of technology, everyday use, innovation management, technical maintenance and governance of technologies and socio-technical systems have preferentially been associated with advancement and innovation. Discontinuation is, at most, discussed as regime change, innovation setback or failure—as if advancement and innovation was the only direction in which socio-technical development and its governance would go. STS is no exception to this observation, although there are in STS important studies addressing the issue of ending directly, like Aramis in France (Latour 1992), or studies that can, in retrospect, be seen as descriptions of technologies that were, after all, abandoned, like the “male pill” (Oudshoorn 2003). Script analysis may offer another lead, e.g., when Akrich and Latour (1992) are referring to ‘de-inscription’, Geels and Schot (2007) to ‘de-alignment’, Kuhn (1962) to ‘paradigm shift’, or Utterback (2003) to ‘product and manufacturing discontinuities’. The empirical cases are legion, though. However, it is crucial to see how socio-technical systems, technological regimes, or technologies are (or have been) disappearing or are being brought to an end.
For the purpose of focusing more specifically on discontinuities, we invite the following angles:

1. To re-read relevant STS publications and reconstruct their insights on technology abandonment, as abrupt or incremental processes, by purposeful action or inaction (neglect), as well as rather system- or actor-network-level destabilisation.
2. It would be welcome if the more theoretical considerations were also informed by recent or historical empirical case examples.
3. Equally welcome are empirical studies showing the broad spectrum of STS scholarship that can tackle discontinuation in specific case studies.
4. Attention for the intertwining of discontinuation and operating discontinuation aspects from a governance, public policy, corporate management, NGO, and citizenship point of view would complete the picture.
This empirical research based on the discourse analysis of policy documents, aiming at building a grounded theory of discontinuation.

Best wishes,
Peter Stegmaier, Pierre-Benoît Joly, Phil Johnstone
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