Technology Assessment in Social Context: The case for a new framework for assessing and shaping technological developments

Wendy Russell, Frank M Vanclay, Heather Aslin

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    Traditional expert (or technocratic) approaches to Technology Assessment have been fundamentally challenged by two observations. The first is that social impacts are not side effects of technology; they are core dimensions of new technology and technological development, and are a function of the coproduction of technology and society. As such, they can only be understood in social, not technical terms. Secondly, technological developments are driven by particular visions for society that are normative. Because these visions (and the latent premises that underpin them) are implicit and not negotiated by society, they are, in effect, undemocratic. Participatory methods have been utilized by Technology Assessment to improve the evaluation of the social and ethical dimensions of technology, and to democratize decision making about science and technology. However, we argue that public participation on its own does not necessarily lead to deeper understandings of social effects, nor necessarily to democratic input into decision making. We therefore make a case for a new form of Technology Assessment which we call TASC - Technology Assessment in Social Context. It takes a constructive, social systems approach to assess technology in social context and seeks to shape technology and social contexts through information, interaction and dialogue. � IAIA 2010.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)109-116
    Number of pages8
    JournalImpact Assessment and Project Appraisal
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2010


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