Leonard-Clarke, Willow

Leonard-Clarke, Willow
Start date:
October 2017
Research Topic:
Ecological Techne: Craft, Knowledge and Technology in Sustainable Development Projects
Research Supervisor:
Robert Evans and Susan Baker
Supervising school:
School of Social Sciences,
Primary funding source:
ESRC Studentship

This research aims to look at sustainable development projects through the lens of Science and Technology Studies (STS) theories, in particular the social construction of technology (SCOT). The idea that technological development presupposes sustainability dominates, with research and investment often lying in technological innovation and left to the physical sciences alone. Blame is often placed in technology itself but technology must be understood as a product of social values, structures and practices (see for example: Bijker 1995; 2006; 2007, Winner 1986, Baker 2016).

The technologies and structures of society are thick with, and reproducing of, social values (Bijker 1995, 2006, 2007, Winner 1986). Technology and material arrangements solidify and structure, or act against, future change; these ‘technological frames’ determining what is possible within society (Bijker 2007). It becomes difficult to obtain sustainability if large scale technological structures need dismantling and re-imagining entirely. Technologies also have an ‘interpretive flexibility’ with different uses imagined or understood by different people for the same objects, with the design and use of technology being shaped and interpreted by the values of creators and users (Pinch and Bijker 1986).

This research focuses on examples of what I dub ‘ecological techne’ in sustainble development projects. ‘Techne’ embodies a collision of craft, knowledge and technology. I aim to explore how the STS concepts mentioned here can give new insight on sustainable development projects, to add new understanding to the reasons for the success or failure of social efforts to achieve sustainability and to deepen our undersanding of how social values and practices can also materially shape our worlds.

Further Reading

Baker, S. (2016) Sustainable Development. (2nd Ed). London: Routledge

Bijker, W. (1995). Of Bicycles, Bakelites and Bulbs: Towards a Theory of Sociotechnical Change. London: MIT Press

Bijker, W. (2006). ‘Why and How Technology Matters’ In: Goodwin, R E. and Tilly, C. eds. The Oxford Handbook of Contextual Political Analysis. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Bijker, W. (2007). Dikes and Dams, Thick with Politics. ISIS. 98(1), pp.109-123

Bijker, W. Hughes, T. P. and Pinch, T. (2012) The Social Construction of Technological Systems: New Directions in the Sociology and History of Technology. London: MIT Press Anniversary ed.

Pinch, T. J. and Bijker, W. (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, pp. 399-441

Winner, L. (1986) The Whale and the Reactor: A Search for Limits in an Age of High Technology. Chicago: Chicago University Press.