How Smart Grid Meets In Vitro Meat: on Visions as Socio-Epistemic Practices
The production, manipulation and exploitation of future visions are increasingly important elements in practices of visioneering socio-technical processes of innovation and transformation. This becomes obvious in new and emerging science and technologies and large-scale transformations of established socio-technical systems (e.g. the energy system). A variety of science and technology studies (STS) provide evidence on correlations between expectations and anticipatory practices with the dynamics of such processes of change. Technology assessment (TA) responded to the challenges posed by the influence of visions on the processes by elaborating methodologies for a “vision assessment” as a contribution to what is now increasingly known as “hermeneutical TA”. But until now, the practical functions of visions in the processes have not been explained in a way that satisfies the empirical needs of TA’s vision assessment—that is to provide future-oriented knowledge based on the analysis of ongoing changes in the present without knowing the future outcomes. Our leading hypothesis is that we can only understand the practical roles of visions in current processes if we analyse them as socio-epistemic practices which simultaneously produce new knowledge and enable new social arrangements. We elaborate this by means of two cases: the visions of In Vitro meat and of the smart grid. Here, we interpret visioneering more in its collective dimension as a contingent and open-ended process, emerging from heterogeneous socio-epistemic practices. This paper aims at improving TA’s vision assessments and related STS research on visionary practices for real-time analysis and assessments.