Science and technology studies

Last updated
A communications artifact at the Science Museum, London, UK Science Museum 20190311 144126 (49362160668).jpg
A communications artifact at the Science Museum, London, UK

Science and technology studies (STS) or science, technology, and society is an interdisciplinary field that examines the creation, development, and consequences of science and technology in their historical, cultural, and social contexts. [1]



Like most interdisciplinary fields of study, STS emerged from the confluence of a variety of disciplines and disciplinary subfields, all of which had developed an interest—typically, during the 1960s or 1970s—in viewing science and technology as socially embedded enterprises. [2] The key disciplinary components of STS took shape independently, beginning in the 1960s, and developed in isolation from each other well into the 1980s, although Ludwik Fleck's (1935) monograph Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact anticipated many of STS's key themes. In the 1970s Elting E. Morison founded the STS program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which served as a model. By 2011, 111 STS research centers and academic programs were counted worldwide. [3]

Key themes

During the 1970s and 1980s, universities in the US, UK, and Europe began drawing these various components together in new, interdisciplinary programs. For example, in the 1970s, Cornell University developed a new program that united science studies and policy-oriented scholars with historians and philosophers of science and technology. Each of these programs developed unique identities due to variations in the components that were drawn together, as well as their location within the various universities. For example, the University of Virginia's STS program united scholars drawn from a variety of fields (with particular strength in the history of technology); however, the program's teaching responsibilities—it is located within an engineering school and teaches ethics to undergraduate engineering students—means that all of its faculty share a strong interest in engineering ethics. [5]

The "turn to technology" (and beyond)

A decisive moment in the development of STS was the mid-1980s addition of technology studies to the range of interests reflected in science. During that decade, two works appeared en seriatim that signaled what Steve Woolgar was to call the "turn to technology". [6] In a seminal 1984 article, Trevor Pinch and Wiebe Bijker attached the sociology of scientific knowledge to technology by showing how the sociology of technology could proceed along the theoretical and methodological lines established by the sociology of scientific knowledge.[ clarify ] [7] This was the intellectual foundation of the field they called the social construction of technology. Donald MacKenzie and Judy Wajcman primed the pump by publishing a collection of articles attesting to the influence of society on technological design (Social Shaping of Technology, 1985). [8] Social science research continued to interrogate STS research from this point onward as researchers moved from post-modern to post-structural frameworks of thought, Bijker and Pinch contributing to SCOT knowledge and Wajcman providing boundary work through a feminist lens. [9]

The "turn to technology" helped to cement an already growing awareness of underlying unity among the various emerging STS programs. More recently, there has been an associated turn to ecology, nature, and materiality in general, whereby the socio-technical and natural/material co-produce each other. This is especially evident in work in STS analyses of biomedicine (such as Carl May and Annemarie Mol) and ecological interventions (such as Bruno Latour, Sheila Jasanoff, Matthias Gross, and S. Lochlann Jain).

Important concepts

Social construction(s)

Social constructions are human-created ideas, objects, or events created by a series of choices and interactions. [10] These interactions have consequences that change the perception that different groups of people have on these constructs. Some examples of social construction include class, race, money, and citizenship.

The following also alludes to the notion that not everything is set, a circumstance or result could potentially be one way or the other. According to the article "What is Social Construction?" by Laura Flores, "Social construction work is critical of the status quo. Social constructionists about X tend to hold that:

  1. X need not have existed, or need not be at all as it is. X, or X as it is at present, is not determined by the nature of things; it is not inevitable

Very often they go further, and urge that:

  1. X is quite as bad as it is.
  2. We would be much better off if X were done away with, or at least radically transformed."

In the past, there have been viewpoints that were widely regarded as fact until being called to question due to the introduction of new knowledge. Such viewpoints include the past concept of a correlation between intelligence and the nature of a human's ethnicity or race (X may not be at all as it is). [11]

An example of the evolution and interaction of various social constructions within science and technology can be found in the development of both the high-wheel bicycle, or velocipede, and then of the bicycle. The velocipede was widely used in the latter half of the 19th century. In the latter half of the 19th century, a social need was first recognized for a more efficient and rapid means of transportation. Consequently, the velocipede was first developed, which was able to reach higher translational velocities than the smaller non-geared bicycles of the day, by replacing the front wheel with a larger radius wheel. One notable trade-off was a certain decreased stability leading to a greater risk of falling. This trade-off resulted in many riders getting into accidents by losing balance while riding the bicycle or being thrown over the handlebars.

The first "social construction" or progress of the velocipede caused the need for a newer "social construction" to be recognized and developed into a safer bicycle design. Consequently, the velocipede was then developed into what is now commonly known as the "bicycle" to fit within society's newer "social construction," the newer standards of higher vehicle safety. Thus the popularity of the modern geared bicycle design came as a response to the first social construction, the original need for greater speed, which had caused the high-wheel bicycle to be designed in the first place. The popularity of the modern geared bicycle design ultimately ended the widespread use of the velocipede itself, as eventually it was found to best accomplish the social needs/ social constructions of both greater speed and of greater safety. [12]

Material semiotics

With methodology from ANT, feminist STS theorists built upon SCOT's theory of co-construction to explore the relationship between gender and technology, proposing one cannot exist separately from the other. [13] This approach suggests the material and social are not separate, reality being produced through interactions and studied through representations of those realities. [14] Building on Woolgar's boundary work on user configuration, [15] feminist critiques shifted the focus away from users of technology and science towards whether technology and science represent a fixed, unified reality. [16] According to this approach, identity could no longer be treated as causal in human interactions with technology as it cannot exist prior to that interaction, feminist STS researchers proposing a "double-constructivist" approach to account for this contradiction. [17] John Law credits feminist STS scholars for contributing material-semiotic approaches to the broader discipline of STS, stating that research not only attempts to describe reality, but enacts it through the research process. [18]

Sociotechnical imaginaries (STIs)

Sociotechnical imaginaries are what certain communities, societies, and nations envision as achievable through the combination of scientific innovation and social changes. These visions can be based on what is possible to achieve for a certain society, and can also show what a certain state or nation desires. [19] STIs are often bound with ideologies and ambitions of those who create and circulate them. Sociotechnical imaginaries can be created by states and policymakers, smaller groups within society, or can be a result of the interaction of both. [19]

The term was coined in 2009 by Sheila Jasanoff and Sang-Hyun Kim who compared and contrasted sociotechnical imaginaries of nuclear energy in the USA with those of South Korea over the second half of the 20th century. [19] Jasanoff and Kim analyzed the discourse of government representatives, national policies, and civil society organizations, looked at the technological and infrastructural developments, and social protests, and conducted interviews with experts. They concluded that in South Korea nuclear energy was imagined mostly as the means of national development, while in the US the dominant sociotechnical imaginary framed nuclear energy as risky and in need of containment. [19]

The concept has been applied to several objects of study including biomedical research, [20] [21] nanotechnology development [22] and energy systems and climate change. [23] [24] [25] [26] [27] [19] Within energy systems, research has focused on nuclear energy, [19] fossil fuels, [24] [27] renewables [23] as well as broader topics of energy transitions, [25] and the development of new technologies to address climate change. [26]

Sociotechnical systems theory

Social technical systems are an interplay between technologies and humans, this is clearly expressed in the sociotechnical systems theory. To expound on this interplay, humans fulfill and define tasks, then humans in companies use IT and IT supports people, and finally, IT processes tasks and new IT generates new tasks. This IT redefines work practices. This is what we call the sociotechnical systems. [28] In socio-technical systems, there are two principles to internalize, that is joint optimization and complementarity. Joint optimization puts an emphasis on developing both systems in parallel and it is only in the interaction of both systems that the success of an organization arises. [28] The principle of complementarity means that both systems have to be optimized. [28] If you focus on one system and have bias over the other it will likely lead to the failure of the organization or jeopardize the success of a system. Although the above socio-technical system theory is focused on an organization, it is undoubtedly imperative to correlate this theory and its principles to society today and in science and technology studies.

According to Barley and Bailey, there is a  tendency for AI designers and scholars of design studies to privilege the technical over the social, focusing more on taking "humans out of the loop" paradigm than the "augmented intelligence" paradigm. [29]

Recent work on artificial intelligence considers large sociotechnical systems, such as social networks and online marketplaces, as agents whose behavior can be purposeful and adaptive. The behavior of recommender systems can therefore be analyzed in the language and framework of sociotechnical systems, leading also to a new perspective for their legal regulation. [30] [31]


Technoscience is a subset of Science, Technology, and Society studies that focuses on the inseparable connection between science and technology. It states that fields are linked and grow together, and scientific knowledge requires an infrastructure of technology in order to remain stationary or move forward. Both technological development and scientific discovery drive one another towards more advancement. Technoscience excels at shaping human thoughts and behavior by opening up new possibilities that gradually or quickly come to be perceived as necessities. [32]


"Technological action is a social process." [33] Social factors and technology are intertwined so that they are dependent upon each other. This includes the aspect that social, political, and economic factors are inherent in technology and that social structure influences what technologies are pursued. In other words, "technoscientific phenomena combined inextricably with social/political/ economic/psychological phenomena, so 'technology' includes a spectrum of artifacts, techniques, organizations, and systems." [34] Winner expands on this idea by saying "in the late twentieth-century technology and society, technology and culture, technology and politics are by no means separate." [35]


  • Ford Pinto [36] Ford Motor Company sold and produced the Pinto during the 1970s. A flaw in the automobile design of the rear gas tank caused a fiery explosion upon impact. The exploding fuel tank killed and injured hundreds of people. Internal documents of test results proved Ford CEO Lee Iacocca and engineers were aware of the flaw. The company decided to ignore improving its technology because of profit-driven motives, strict internal control, and competition from foreign competitors such as Volkswagen. Ford Motor Company conducted a cost-benefit analysis to determine if altering the Ford Pinto model was feasible. An analysis conducted by Ford employees argued against a new design because of increased cost. Employees were also under tight control by the CEO who rushed the Pinto through production lines to increase profits. Ford finally changed after public scrutiny. Safety organizations later influenced this technology by requiring stricter safety standards for motor vehicles.
  • DDT/toxins [34] – DDT was a common and highly effective insecticide used during the 1940s until its ban in the early 1970s. It was utilized during World War 2 to combat insect-borne human diseases that plagued military members and civilian populations. People and companies soon realized other benefits of DDT for agricultural purposes. Rachel Carson became worried about widespread use on public health and the environment. Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring left an imprint on the industry by claiming the linkage of DDT to many serious illnesses such as cancer. Carson's book drew criticism from chemical companies who felt their reputation and business threatened by such claims.. DDT was eventually banned by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) after a long and arduous process of research on the chemical substance. The main cause for the removal of DDT was the public deciding that any benefits were outweighed by the potential health risk.
  • Autopilots/computer-aided tasks (CATs) [34] – From a security point of view the effects of making a task more computer-driven is in the favor of technological advance because there is less reaction time required and computational error than a human pilot. Due to reduced error and reaction times flights on average, using autopilot, have been shown to be safer. Thus technology has a direct impact on people by increasing their safety, and society affects technology because people want to be safer so they are constantly trying to improve the autopilot systems.
  • Cell phones [34] – Cell phone technology emerged in the early 1920s after advancements were made in radio technology. Engineers at Bell Laboratories, the research, and development division of AT&T discovered that cell towers can transmit and receive signals to and from many directions. The discovery by Bell Labs revolutionized the capabilities and outcomes of cellular technology. Technology only improved once mobile phone users could communicate outside of a designated area. First-generation mobile phones were first created and sold by Motorola. Their phone was only intended for use in cars. Second-generation mobile phone capabilities continued to improve because of the switch to digital. Phones were faster which enhanced the communication capabilities of customers. They were also sleeker and weighed less than bulky first-generation technology. Technological advances boosted customer satisfaction and broadened cell phone companies' customer base. Third-generation technology changed the way people interact with others. Now customers had access to Wi-Fi, texting and other applications. Mobile phones are now entering into the fourth generation. Cellular and mobile phones revolutionized the way people socialize and communicate in order to establish a modern social structure. People have affected the development of this technology by demanding features such as larger screens, touch capabilities, and internet accessibility.
  • Internet [34] – The internet arose because of extensive research on ARPANET between various universities, corporations, and ARPA (Advanced Research Project Agency), an agency of the Department of Defense. Scientists theorized a network of computers connected to each other. Computing capabilities contributed to developments and the creation of the modern-day computer or laptop. The internet has become a normal part of life and business, to such a degree that the United Nations views it as a basic human right. The internet is becoming larger, one way is that more things are being moved into the digital world due to demand, for example, online banking. It has drastically changed the way most people go about daily habits.

Deliberative democracy

Deliberative democracy is a reform of representative or direct democracies which mandates discussion and debate of popular topics which affect society. Deliberative democracy is a tool for making decisions. Deliberative democracy can be traced back all the way to Aristotle's writings. More recently, the term was coined by Joseph Bessette in his 1980 work Deliberative Democracy: The Majority Principle in Republican Government, where he uses the idea in opposition to the elitist interpretations of the United States Constitution with emphasis on public discussion. [37]

Deliberative democracy can lead to more legitimate, credible, and trustworthy outcomes. Deliberative democracy allows for "a wider range of public knowledge", and it has been argued that this can lead to "more socially intelligent and robust" science. One major shortcoming of deliberative democracy is that many models insufficiently ensure critical interaction. [38]

According to Ryfe, there are five mechanisms that stand out as critical to the successful design of deliberative democracy:


Recently,[ when? ] there has been a movement towards greater transparency in the fields of policy and technology. Jasanoff comes to the conclusion that there is no longer a question of if there needs to be increased public participation in making decisions about science and technology, but now there need to be ways to make a more meaningful conversation between the public and those developing the technology. [40]

In practice

Bruce Ackerman and James S. Fishkin offered an example of a reform in their paper "Deliberation Day." The deliberation is to enhance public understanding of popular, complex and controversial issues through devices such as Fishkin's deliberative polling, [41] through implementation of these reforms is unlikely in a large government such as that of the United States. However, things similar to this have been implemented in small, local governments like New England towns and villages. New England town hall meetings are a good example of deliberative democracy in a realistic setting. [37]

An ideal deliberative democracy balances the voice and influence of all participants. While the main aim is to reach consensus, deliberative democracy should encourage the voices of those with opposing viewpoints, concerns due to uncertainties, and questions about assumptions made by other participants. It should take its time and ensure that those participating understand the topics on which they debate. Independent managers of debates should also have a substantial grasp of the concepts discussed, but must "[remain] independent and impartial as to the outcomes of the process." [38]

Tragedy of the commons

In 1968, Garrett Hardin popularised the phrase "tragedy of the commons." It is an economic theory where rational people act against the best interest of the group by consuming a common resource. Since then, the tragedy of the commons has been used to symbolize the degradation of the environment whenever many individuals use a common resource. Although Garrett Hardin was not an STS scholar, the concept of the tragedy of the commons still applies to science, technology, and society. [42]

In a contemporary setting, the Internet acts as an example of the tragedy of the commons through the exploitation of digital resources and private information. Data and internet passwords can be stolen much more easily than physical documents. Virtual spying is almost free compared to the costs of physical spying. [43] Additionally, net neutrality can be seen as an example of tragedy of the commons in an STS context. The movement for net neutrality argues that the Internet should not be a resource that is dominated by one particular group, specifically those with more money to spend on Internet access.

A counterexample to the tragedy of the commons is offered by Andrew Kahrl. Privatization can be a way to deal with the tragedy of the commons. However, Kahrl suggests that the privatization of beaches on Long Island, in an attempt to combat the overuse of Long Island beaches, made the residents of Long Island more susceptible to flood damage from Hurricane Sandy. The privatization of these beaches took away from the protection offered by the natural landscape. Tidal lands that offer natural protection were drained and developed. This attempt to combat the tragedy of the commons by privatization was counter-productive. Privatization actually destroyed the public good of natural protection from the landscape. [44]

Alternative modernity

Alternative modernity [45] [46] is a conceptual tool conventionally used to represent the state of present western society. Modernity represents the political and social structures of society, the sum of interpersonal discourse, and ultimately a snapshot of society's direction at a point in time. Unfortunately, conventional modernity is incapable of modeling alternative directions for further growth within our society. Also, this concept is ineffective at analyzing similar but unique modern societies such as those found in the diverse cultures of the developing world. Problems can be summarized into two elements: inward failure to analyze the growth potentials of a given society, and outward failure to model different cultures and social structures and predict their growth potentials.

Previously, modernity carried a connotation of the current state of being modern, and its evolution through European colonialism. The process of becoming "modern" is believed to occur in a linear, pre-determined way, and is seen by Philip Brey as a way to interpret and evaluate social and cultural formations. This thought ties in with modernization theory, the thought that societies progress from "pre-modern" to "modern" societies.

Within the field of science and technology, there are two main lenses with which to view modernity. The first is as a way for society to quantify what it wants to move towards. In effect, we can discuss the notion of "alternative modernity" (as described by Andrew Feenberg) and which of these we would like to move towards. Alternatively, modernity can be used to analyze the differences in interactions between cultures and individuals. From this perspective, alternative modernities exist simultaneously, based on differing cultural and societal expectations of how a society (or an individual within society) should function. Because of different types of interactions across different cultures, each culture will have a different modernity.

Pace of innovation

The pace of innovation is the speed at which technological innovation or advancement is occurring, with the most apparent instances being too slow or too rapid. Both these rates of innovation are extreme and therefore have effects on the people that get to use this technology.

No innovation without representation

"No innovation without representation" is a democratic ideal of ensuring that everyone involved gets a chance to be represented fairly in technological developments.

Legacy thinking

Legacy thinking is defined as an inherited method of thinking imposed from an external source without objection by the individual because it is already widely accepted by society.

Legacy thinking can impair the ability to drive technology for the betterment of society by blinding people to innovations that do not fit into their accepted model of how society works. By accepting ideas without questioning them, people often see all solutions that contradict these accepted ideas as impossible or impractical. Legacy thinking tends to advantage the wealthy, who have the means to project their ideas on the public. It may be used by the wealthy as a vehicle to drive technology in their favor rather than for the greater good. Examining the role of citizen participation and representation in politics provides an excellent example of legacy thinking in society. The belief that one can spend money freely to gain influence has been popularized, leading to public acceptance of corporate lobbying. As a result, a self-established role in politics has been cemented where the public does not exercise the power ensured to them by the Constitution to the fullest extent. This can become a barrier to political progress as corporations who have the capital to spend have the potential to wield great influence over policy. [50] Legacy thinking, however, keeps the population from acting to change this, despite polls from Harris Interactive that report over 80% of Americans to feel that big business holds too much power in government. [51] Therefore, Americans are beginning to try to steer away from this line of thought, rejecting legacy thinking, and demanding less corporate, and more public, participation in political decision-making.

Additionally, an examination of net neutrality functions as a separate example of legacy thinking. Starting with dial-up, the internet has always been viewed as a private luxury good.[ citation needed ] Internet today is a vital part of modern-day society members. They use it in and out of life every day. [52] Corporations are able to mislabel and greatly overcharge for their internet resources. Since the American public is so dependent upon the internet there is little for them to do. Legacy thinking has kept this pattern on track despite growing movements arguing that the internet should be considered a utility. Legacy thinking prevents progress because it was widely accepted by others before us through advertising that the internet is a luxury and not a utility. Due to pressure from grassroots movements the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has redefined the requirements for broadband and internet in general as a utility. [52] Now AT&T and other major internet providers are lobbying against this action and are in large able to delay the onset of this movement due to legacy thinking's grip on American[ specify ] culture and politics.

For example, those who cannot overcome the barrier of legacy thinking may not consider the privatization of clean drinking water as an issue. [53] This is partial because access to water has become such a given fact of the matter to them. For a person living in such circumstances, it may be widely accepted to not concern themselves with drinking water because they have not needed to be concerned with it in the past. Additionally, a person living within an area that does not need to worry about their water supply or the sanitation of their water supply is less likely to be concerned with the privatization of water.

This notion can be examined through the thought experiment of "veil of ignorance". [54] Legacy thinking causes people to be particularly ignorant about the implications behind the "you get what you pay for" mentality applied to a life necessity. By utilizing the "veil of ignorance", one can overcome the barrier of legacy thinking as it requires a person to imagine that they are unaware of their own circumstances, allowing them to free themselves from externally imposed thoughts or widely accepted ideas.

  • Technoscience [34] – The perception that science and technology are intertwined and depend on each other.
  • Technosociety [55] – An industrially developed society with a reliance on technology.
  • Technological utopianism – A positive outlook on the effect technology has on social welfare. Includes the perception that technology will one day enable society to reach a utopian state.
  • Technosocial systems [56] – people and technologies that combine to work as heterogeneous but functional wholes.
  • Critical Technical Practice [57] – the practice of technological creation while simultaneously critiquing and maintaining awareness of the inherent biases and value systems which become embedded in those technologies.


  • Technological optimism [58] – The opinion that technology has positive effects on society and should be used in order to improve the welfare of people.
  • Technological pessimism [58] – The opinion that technology has negative effects on society and should be discouraged from use.
  • Technological neutrality [56] – "maintains that a given technology has no systematic effects on society: individuals are perceived as ultimately responsible, for better or worse, because technologies are merely tools people use for their own ends."
  • Technological determinism [56] – "maintains that technologies are understood as simply and directly causing particular societal outcomes."
  • Scientism [59] – The belief in the total separation of facts and values.
  • Technological progressivism [59] – technology is a means to an end itself and an inherently positive pursuit.

Academic programs

STS is taught in several countries. According to the STS wiki, STS programs can be found in twenty countries, including 45 programs in the United States, three programs in India, and eleven programs in the UK. [60] STS programs can be found in Canada, [61] Germany, [62] Israel, [63] Malaysia, [64] and Taiwan. [65] Some examples of institutions offering STS programs are Stanford University, [66] University College London, [67] Harvard University, [68] the University of Oxford, [69] Mines ParisTech, [70] Bar-Ilan University, [71] and York University. [61] In Europe the European Inter-University Association on Society, Science and Technology (ESST) offers an MA degree in STS through study programs and student exchanges with over a dozen specializations.

Professional associations

The field has professional associations in regions and countries around the world.

In Europe

In Asia

In Latin America

In North America


Notable peer-reviewed journals in STS include:

Student journals in STS include:

Notable scholars

See also

Related Research Articles

Sociotechnical systems (STS) in organizational development is an approach to complex organizational work design that recognizes the interaction between people and technology in workplaces. The term also refers to coherent systems of human relations, technical objects, and cybernetic processes that inhere to large, complex infrastructures. Social society, and its constituent substructures, qualify as complex sociotechnical systems.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Science studies</span> Research area analyzing scientific expertise

Science studies is an interdisciplinary research area that seeks to situate scientific expertise in broad social, historical, and philosophical contexts. It uses various methods to analyze the production, representation and reception of scientific knowledge and its epistemic and semiotic role.

Actor–network theory (ANT) is a theoretical and methodological approach to social theory where everything in the social and natural worlds exists in constantly shifting networks of relationships. It posits that nothing exists outside those relationships. All the factors involved in a social situation are on the same level, and thus there are no external social forces beyond what and how the network participants interact at present. Thus, objects, ideas, processes, and any other relevant factors are seen as just as important in creating social situations as humans.

Social informatics is the study of information and communication tools in cultural or institutional contexts. Another definition is the interdisciplinary study of the design, uses and consequences of information technologies that takes into account their interaction with institutional and cultural contexts. A transdisciplinary field, social informatics is part of a larger body of socio-economic research that examines the ways in which the technological artifact and human social context mutually constitute the information and communications technology (ICT) ensemble. Some proponents of social informatics use the relationship of a biological community to its environment as an analogy for the relationship of tools to people who use them. The Center for Social Informatics founded by the late Dr. Rob Kling, an early champion of the field's ideas, defines the field thus:

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Social construction of technology</span> Theory in science and technology studies

Social construction of technology (SCOT) is a theory within the field of science and technology studies. Advocates of SCOT—that is, social constructivists—argue that technology does not determine human action, but that rather, human action shapes technology. They also argue that the ways a technology is used cannot be understood without understanding how that technology is embedded in its social context. SCOT is a response to technological determinism and is sometimes known as technological constructivism.

Theories of technological change and innovation attempt to explain the factors that shape technological innovation as well as the impact of technology on society and culture. Some of the most contemporary theories of technological change reject two of the previous views: the linear model of technological innovation and other, the technological determinism. To challenge the linear model, some of today's theories of technological change and innovation point to the history of technology, where they find evidence that technological innovation often gives rise to new scientific fields, and emphasizes the important role that social networks and cultural values play in creating and shaping technological artifacts. To challenge the so-called "technological determinism", today's theories of technological change emphasize the scope of the need of technical choice, which they find to be greater than most laypeople can realize; as scientists in philosophy of science, and further science and technology often like to say about this "It could have been different." For this reason, theorists who take these positions often argue that a greater public involvement in technological decision-making is desired.

Public awareness of science (PAwS) is everything relating to the awareness, attitudes, behaviors, opinions, and activities that comprise the relations between the general public or lay society as a whole to scientific knowledge and organization. This concept is also known as public understanding of science (PUS), or more recently, public engagement with science and technology (PEST). It is a comparatively new approach to the task of exploring the multitude of relations and linkages science, technology, and innovation have among the general public. While early work in the discipline focused on increasing or augmenting the public's knowledge of scientific topics, in line with the information deficit model of science communication, the deficit model has largely been abandoned by science communication researchers. Instead, there is an increasing emphasis on understanding how the public chooses to use scientific knowledge and on the development of interfaces to mediate between expert and lay understandings of an issue. Newer frameworks of communicating science include the dialogue and the participation models. The dialogue model aims to create spaces for conversations between scientists and non-scientists to occur while the participation model aims to include non-scientists in the process of science.

The imaginary is the set of values, institutions, laws, and symbols through which people imagine their social whole. It is common to the members of a particular social group and the corresponding society. The concept of the imaginary has attracted attention in anthropology, sociology, psychoanalysis, philosophy, and media studies.

John Law, is a sociologist and science and technology studies scholar, currently on the Faculty of Social Sciences at the Open University. Law coined the term Actor-Network Theory (ANT) in 1992 when synthesising work done with colleagues at the Centre de Sociologie de l'Innovation.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Wiebe Bijker</span>

Wiebe E. Bijker is a Dutch professor Emeritus, former chair of the Department of Social Science and Technology at Maastricht University in the Netherlands.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Social shaping of technology</span>

According to Robin A. Williams and David Edge (1996), "Central to social shaping of technology (SST) is the concept that there are choices inherent in both the design of individual artifacts and systems, and in the direction or trajectory of innovation programs."

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Trevor Pinch</span> British sociologist (1952–2021)

Trevor J. Pinch was a British sociologist, part-time musician and chair of the science and technology studies department at Cornell University. In 2018, he won the J.D. Bernal Prize from the Society for Social Studies of Science for "distinguished contributions to Science and Technology Studies over the course of [a] career."

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Judy Wajcman</span> British academic

Judy Wajcman, is the Anthony Giddens Professor of Sociology at the London School of Economics and Political Science. She is the Principal Investigator of the Women in Data Science and AI project at The Alan Turing Institute. She is also a Visiting Professor at the Oxford Internet Institute. Her scholarly interests encompass the sociology of work, science and technology studies, gender theory, and organizational analysis. Her work has been translated into French, German, Greek, Italian, Korean, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, Chinese and Spanish. Prior to joining the LSE in 2009, she was a Professor of Sociology in the Research School of Social Sciences at the Australian National University. She was the first woman to be appointed the Norman Laski Research Fellow (1978–80) at St. John's College, Cambridge. In 1997 she was elected Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sheila Jasanoff</span>

Sheila Sen Jasanoff is an Indian American academic and significant contributor to the field of Science and Technology Studies. In 2021 she was elected to the American Philosophical Society. Her research has been recognized with many awards, including the 2022 Holberg Prize "for her groundbreaking research in science and technology studies."

Engineering studies is an interdisciplinary branch of social sciences and humanities devoted to the study of engineers and their activities, often considered a part of science and technology studies (STS), and intersecting with and drawing from engineering education research. Studying engineers refers among other to the history and the sociology of their profession, its institutionalization and organization, the social composition and structure of the population of engineers, their training, their trajectory, etc. A subfield is for instance Women in engineering. Studying engineering refers to the study of engineering activities and practices, their knowledge and ontologies, their role into the society, their engagement.

Mutual shaping suggests that society and technology are not mutually exclusive to one another and, instead, influence and shape each other. This process is a combination of social determinism and technological determinism. The term mutual shaping was developed through science and technology studies (STS) in an attempt to explain the detailed process of technological design. Mutual shaping is argued to have a more comprehensive understanding of the development of new media because it considers technological and social change as directly affecting the other.

Sociotechnology is the study of processes on the intersection of society and technology. Vojinović and Abbott define it as "the study of processes in which the social and the technical are indivisibly combined". Sociotechnology is an important part of socio-technical design, which is defined as "designing things that participate in complex systems that have both social and technical aspects".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ulrich Dolata</span>

Ulrich Dolata is a German sociologist.

Feminist science and technology studies is a theoretical subfield of science and technology studies (STS), which explores how gender interacts with science and technology. The field emerged in the early 1980s alongside other relativist theories of STS which rejected the dominance of technological determinism, proposing that reality is multiple rather than fixed and prioritizing situated knowledges over scientific objectivity. Feminist STS's material-semiotic theory evolved to display a complex understanding of gender and technology relationships by the 2000s, notable scholars producing feminist critiques of scientific knowledge and the design and use of technologies. The co-constructive relationship between gender and technology contributed to feminist STS's rejection of binary gender roles by the twenty-first century, the field's framework expanding to incorporate principles of feminist technoscience and queer theory amidst widespread adoption of the internet.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Anthropology of technology</span>

The anthropology of technology (AoT) is a unique, diverse, and growing field of study that bears much in common with kindred developments in the sociology and history of technology: first, a growing refusal to view the role of technology in human societies as the irreversible and predetermined consequence of a given technology's putative “inner logic”; and second, a focus on the social and cultural factors that shape a given technology's development and impact in a society. However, AoT defines technology far more broadly than the sociologists and historians of technology.


  1. Hackett, Edward J.; Clarke, Adele E.; Amsterdamska, Olga; Lynch, Michael E.; Wajcman, Judy; Sismondo, Sergio; Bijker, Wiebe E.; Turner, Stephen; Thorpe, Charles; Latour, Bruno (2007). The Handbook of Science and Technology Studies. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. p. 1. ISBN   9780262274685.
  2. Bijker, W. E., Hughes, T. P., Pinch, T. and Douglas, D. G., The Social Construction of Technological Systems: New Directions in the Sociology and History of Technology, MIT Press, Cambridge, 2012.
  3. The STS Wiki.
  4. Wajcman, Judy (1995). "Feminist Theories of Technology". Handbook of Science and Technology Studies. SAGE Publications Inc: 189–204. doi:10.4135/9781412990127.n9. ISBN   9780761924982.
  5. Gorman, Michael; Hertz, Michael; Louis, Garrick; Magpili, Luna; Mauss, Mark; Mehalik, Matthew; Tuttle, J.B. (October 2000). "Integrating Ethics & Engineering: A Graduate Option in Systems Engineering, Ethics, and Technology Studies". Journal of Engineering Education. 89 (4): 461–469. doi:10.1002/j.2168-9830.2000.tb00552.x. S2CID   109724698.
  6. Woolgar, Steve (January 1991). "The turn to technology in social studies of science". Science, Technology, & Human Values . 16 (1): 20–50. doi:10.1177/016224399101600102. JSTOR   690038. S2CID   145470661.
  7. Pinch, Trevor J.; Bijker, Wiebe E. (August 1984). "The social construction of facts and artefacts: or how the sociology of science and the sociology of technology might benefit each other". Social Studies of Science . 14 (3): 399–441. doi:10.1177/030631284014003004. JSTOR   285355. S2CID   19157599. See also: Bijker, Wiebe E.; Hughes, Thomas Parke; Pinch, Trevor J., eds. (2012) [1987]. The social construction of technological systems: new directions in the sociology and history of technology (Anniversary ed.). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. ISBN   9780262517607. OCLC   759491749.
  8. MacKenzie, Donald A.; Wajcman, Judy, eds. (1999) [1985]. The social shaping of technology (2nd ed.). Buckingham: Open University Press. ISBN   0335199143. OCLC   39713267.
  9. Law, John (November 2008). "On Sociology and STS". The Sociological Review. 56 (4): 623–649. doi:10.1111/j.1467-954x.2008.00808.x. ISSN   0038-0261. S2CID   149088374.
  10. Woodhouse, Edward (2014). Science Technology and Society (1st ed.). San Diego: University Readers. p. 255.
  11. Hacking, Ian (1999). The Social Construction of What? (1st ed.). Cambridge, Massachusetts & London, England: President and Fellows of Harvard University. p. 6. ISBN   978-0674004122.
  12. Bijker, Wiebe (1993). The Social Construction of Technological System (1st ed.). Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press. pp. 28–45. ISBN   978-0-262-52137-6.
  13. Law, John (November 2008). "On Sociology and STS". The Sociological Review. 56 (4): 623–649. doi:10.1111/j.1467-954x.2008.00808.x. ISSN   0038-0261. S2CID   149088374.
  14. Law, John (November 2008). "On Sociology and STS". The Sociological Review. 56 (4): 623–649. doi:10.1111/j.1467-954x.2008.00808.x. ISSN   0038-0261. S2CID   149088374.
  15. Woolgar, Steve (May 1990). "Configuring the User: The Case of Usability Trials". The Sociological Review. 38 (1_suppl): 58–99. doi:10.1111/j.1467-954x.1990.tb03349.x. ISSN   0038-0261. S2CID   145786443.
  16. Wajcman, Judy (1995), "Feminist theories of technology", Handbook of Science and Technology Studies, SAGE Publications Inc., pp. 189–204, doi:10.4135/9781412990127.n9, ISBN   9780761924982 , retrieved 14 April 2022
  17. Landström, Catharina "Queering Feminist Technology Studies", Women, Science, and Technology, Routledge, pp. 419–433, 11 September 2013, doi:10.4324/9780203427415-35, ISBN   978-0-203-42741-5 , retrieved 2022-04-14
  18. Law, John (November 2008). "On Sociology and STS". The Sociological Review. 56 (4): 623–649. doi:10.1111/j.1467-954x.2008.00808.x. ISSN   0038-0261. S2CID   149088374.
  19. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Jasanoff, Sheila; Kim, Sang-Hyun (2009). "Containing the Atom: Sociotechnical Imaginaries and Nuclear Power in the United States and South Korea". Minerva. 47 (2): 120. doi:10.1007/s11024-009-9124-4. ISSN   0026-4695. S2CID   145288441.
  20. Kim, Sang-Hyun (2014-07-03). "The Politics of Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research in South Korea: Contesting National Sociotechnical Imaginaries". Science as Culture. 23 (3): 293–319. doi:10.1080/09505431.2013.860095. ISSN   0950-5431. S2CID   143997701.
  21. Mikami, Koichi (2015-04-03). "State-Supported Science and Imaginary Lock-in: The Case of Regenerative Medicine in Japan". Science as Culture. 24 (2): 183–204. doi:10.1080/09505431.2014.945410. hdl: 20.500.11820/2e5035a2-4194-4275-b945-67ed9802ec23 . ISSN   0950-5431. S2CID   67762834.
  22. Fonseca, Paulo F.C.; Pereira, Tiago Santos (May 2014). "The governance of nanotechnology in the Brazilian context: Entangling approaches". Technology in Society. 37: 16–27. doi:10.1016/j.techsoc.2013.07.003.
  23. 1 2 Korsnes, Marius; Ryghaug, Marianne (2017-08-09). "With license to build: Chinese offshore wind firms rejecting European certificates". Technology Analysis & Strategic Management. 29 (7): 750–761. doi:10.1080/09537325.2016.1236188. hdl: 11250/2465357 . ISSN   0953-7325. S2CID   34124845.
  24. 1 2 Kuchler, Magdalena; Bridge, Gavin (July 2018). "Down the black hole: Sustaining national socio-technical imaginaries of coal in Poland". Energy Research & Social Science. 41: 136–147. doi: 10.1016/j.erss.2018.04.014 . S2CID   158509615.
  25. 1 2 Delina, Laurence L. (January 2018). "Whose and what futures? Navigating the contested coproduction of Thailand's energy sociotechnical imaginaries". Energy Research & Social Science. 35: 48–56. doi:10.1016/j.erss.2017.10.045. S2CID   158456970.
  26. 1 2 Christiansen, Kirstine Lund; Carton, Wim (June 2021). "What 'climate positive future'? Emerging sociotechnical imaginaries of negative emissions in Sweden". Energy Research & Social Science. 76: 102086. doi: 10.1016/j.erss.2021.102086 . S2CID   235529916.
  27. 1 2 Smith, Jessica M; Tidwell, Abraham SD (June 2016). "The everyday lives of energy transitions: Contested sociotechnical imaginaries in the American West". Social Studies of Science. 46 (3): 327–350. doi:10.1177/0306312716644534. ISSN   0306-3127. PMID   28948886. S2CID   4377417.
  28. 1 2 3 Trist, E. L. (1981). The evolution of socio-technical systems : a conceptual framework and an action research program. Toronto: Ontario Ministry of Labour, Ontario Quality of Working Life Centre. ISBN   0-7743-6286-3. OCLC   8005595.
  29. Bailey, Diane E.; Barley, Stephen R. (2020). "Beyond design and use: How scholars should study intelligent technologies". Information and Organization. 30 (2): 100286. doi:10.1016/j.infoandorg.2019.100286. S2CID   214187921.
  30. Cristianini, Nello; Scantamburlo, Teresa; Ladyman, James (4 October 2021). "The social turn of artificial intelligence" (PDF). AI & Society. 38: 89–96. doi:10.1007/s00146-021-01289-8. S2CID   244180663.
  31. Cristianini, Nello; Scantamburlo, Teresa (8 October 2019). "On social machines for algorithmic regulation". AI & Society. 35 (3): 645–662. arXiv: 1904.13316 . Bibcode:2019arXiv190413316C. doi:10.1007/s00146-019-00917-8. ISSN   1435-5655. S2CID   140233845.
  32. Steven Lukes, Power: A Radical View (London: Macmillan, 1974)
  33. Goldman, S. (1992). No Innovation Without Representation (pp. 148-160). Troy, New York: Rensselaer.
  34. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Woodhouse, E. (2013). In The Future of Technological Civilization (Revised ed., pp. 1-258).
  35. Winner, L. (1993). Artifacts/Ideas and Political Culture (pp. 283-292). Troy, New York: Rensselaer.
  36. Dowie, M. (1977, October 1). Pinto Madness. Retrieved February 4, 2015
  37. 1 2 Bohman, James (1998). "The Coming of Age of Deliberative Democracy". The Journal of Political Philosophy . 6 (4): 400–425. doi:10.1111/1467-9760.00061.
  38. 1 2 Chilvers, Jason (March 2008). "Deliberating Competence, Theoretical and Practitioners Perspectives on Effective Participatory Appraisal Practice". Science, Technology, & Human Values . 33 (2). doi:10.1177/01622439073075941. S2CID   220724507 . Retrieved April 21, 2015.
  39. Ryfe, David M. (March 4, 2005). "Does Deliberative Democracy Work?". Annual Review of Political Science . 8: 63–64. doi: 10.1146/annurev.polisci.8.032904.154633 . S2CID   55726761.
  40. Jasanoff, Sheila (2003). "Technologies of Humility: Citizen Participation in Governing Science". Minerva. 41 (3): 223–244. doi:10.1023/A:1025557512320. S2CID   14370392.
  41. Ackerman, Bruce; Fishkin, James S. (2004-03-10). "Deliberation Day". Center for American Progress. Retrieved April 21, 2015.
  42. Hardin, Garrett. "The Tragedy of the Commons" (PDF). American Association for the Advancement of Science. Retrieved April 21, 2015.
  43. Davidow, Bill (2012-05-18). "The Tragedy of the Internet Commons". The Atlantic. Retrieved April 21, 2015.
  44. Kahn, Matthew E. "Environmental and Urban Economics" . Retrieved April 21, 2015.
  45. Eisenstadt, Shmuel (Winter 2000). "Multiple Modernities". Dædalus.
  46. Feenberg, Andrew (1995). Alternative Modernity : The Technical Turn in Philosophy and Social Theory. University of California Press. ISBN   9780520089860.
  47. Winner, Langdon. "Artifact/Ideas and Political Culture." Technology and the Future (1993): 283-92. Print.
  48. Bucchi, Massimiano. "No Innovation without Representation (A Parliament of Things for the New Technical Democracies)." 20 Dec. 2003. Web. 21 Apr. 2015.
  49. Goldman, Steven L. "No Innovation Without Representation: Technological Action in a Democratic Society." New Worlds, New Technologies, New Issues (1992): 148-60. Print.
  50. , Allison, Bill, and Sarah Harkins. "Fixed Fortunes: Biggest Corporate Political Interests Spend Billions, Get Trillions." Sunlight Foundation Blog. Sunlight Foundation, 17 Nov. 2014. Web. 21 Apr. 2015.
  51. , Corso, Regina, SVP. "PACs, Big Companies, Lobbyists, and Banks and Financial Institutions Seen by Strong Majorities as Having Too Much Power and Influence in DC." Harris Interactive: Harris Polls. Harris Interactive, 29 May 2012. Web. 21 Apr. 2015
  52. 1 2 "Net Neutrality: A Free and Open Internet." The White House. The White House, 26 Feb. 2015. Web. 21 Apr. 2015.
  53. Flow. Oscilloscope Pictures, 2008. DVD.
  54. Woodhouse, Edward. Science Technology and Society. Spring 2015 ed. N.p.: U Readers, 2014. Print.
  55. Technosociety dictionary definition | technosociety defined. (n.d.). Retrieved March 20, 2015, from __
  56. 1 2 3 "Design by Society: Science and Technology Studies and the Social Shaping of Design", Edward Woodhouse and Jason W. Patton, Design Issues, Volume 20, Number 3 Summer 2004.
  57. "Toward a Critical Technical Practice: Lessons Learned in Trying to Reform AI", Philip E. Agre, in Bridging the Great Divide: Social Science, Technical Systems, and Cooperative Work, Geoff Bowker, Les Gasser, Leigh Star, and Bill Turner, eds, Erlbaum, 1997
  58. 1 2 Hochschild, J., Crabill, A., & Sen, M. (2012, December 1). Technology Optimism or Pessimism: How Trust in Science Shapes Policy Attitudes toward Genomic Science. Retrieved March 20, 2015, from
  59. 1 2 Kleinman, D. (2005). Science is Political/Technology is Social: Concerns, Concepts, and Questions. Maryland: Blackwell.
  60. "Worldwide directory of STS programs - stswiki". Retrieved 2018-01-25.
  61. 1 2 "Graduate Program in Science & Technology Studies". York University. Retrieved 8 January 2019.
  62. "Technical University of Munich".
  63. "STS programs: Israel - stswiki". Retrieved 2018-01-25.
  64. "STS programs: Malaysia - stswiki". Retrieved 2018-01-25.
  65. "STS programs: Taiwan - stswiki". Retrieved 2018-01-25.
  66. "Stanford | The Program in Science, Technology, and Society".
  67. UCL (5 June 2018). "UCL – University College London". Science and Technology Studies. Retrieved 2022-05-12.
  68. "Program on Science, Technology and Society at Harvard". Retrieved 2018-01-25.
  69. "Home | Institute for Science Innovation and Society". Retrieved 2018-01-25.
  70. "Center for the Sociology of Innovation (CSI) / Centre de Sociologie de l'Innovation (CSI)". (in French). Retrieved 2018-01-25.
  71. "STS@BIU - Science, Technology and Society, Bar-Ilan University, Israel". STS@BIU - Science, Technology and Society, Bar-Ilan University, Israel. Retrieved 2018-01-25.
  72. "About EASST". Retrieved 2020-01-03.
  73. "Background – AsSIST-UK". 29 March 2016. Retrieved 2020-01-03.
  74. "Members – AsSIST-UK". 29 March 2016. Retrieved 2020-01-03.
  75. Webster, Andrew (2018). "SATSU – The Science and Technology Studies Unit: 30 years in the making". EASST Review. European Association for the Study of Science and Technology. 37 (2). Retrieved 2020-01-03.
  76. "The Society : STS ITALIA". 7 February 2011. Retrieved 2020-11-11.
  77. "STS Dagarna". SweSTS. 2022-05-13. Retrieved 2022-05-13.
  78. "GWTF e.V." GWTF. Retrieved 14 December 2022.
  79. "About | Doing Science and Technology Studies in and through Germany". About. stsing. Retrieved 14 December 2022.
  80. Asia Pacific Science Technology & Society Network
  81. Japanese Society for Science and Technology Studies
  82. Kreimer, P. (2007). Estudios sociales de la ciencia y la tecnología en América Latina: ¿para qué?, ¿ para quién? Redes, 13(26), 55–64. Retrieved from
  83. "Science & Technology Studies". Retrieved 2018-07-05.
  84. Research Policy.
  85. "Revue d'anthropologie des connaissances". Société d'anthropologie des connaissances.
  86. "Technology and Society Magazine - IEEE Technology and Society". IEEE Technology and Society. Retrieved 2018-07-05.
  87. "Tapuya: Latin American Science, Technology and Society Homepage". Taylor & Francis. Retrieved 2018-07-05.

Further reading