The history of technology, when construed broadly and informed by social studies of technology, can inform contemporary policy making and technology engagement. To illustrate this, Bijker will first introduce a recent study in the history of technology, which he did with Annapurna Mamidipudi on handloom weaving in India. Some of the insights gained from that project will then be used to address a contemporaneous issue in northern India, about the highly polluting burning of rice straw.

Handloom is an everyday technology in India (and in many other countries), but also one with a centuries-long tradition. A social-constructivist analysis of the production and consumption of handloom suggests a reconceptualization of innovation. This reconceptualization of innovation has three elements: (1) broadening the unit of analysis from artefact to socio-technical ensemble, (2) recognizing the role of infrastructures, including institutions, and (3) recognizing that innovation and tradition need not be contradictory.

Using these concepts as developed in studying the history of handloom to analyse the contemporaneous issue of rice-straw burning, leads us, Bijker will argue, to critically reflect on the modernization of Indian agriculture as carried out during the Green Revolution. Interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary collaboration, also involving non-academic knowledge, now suggests new forms of technological engagement and policy formation. Finally, these analyses and arguments imply the possibility, if not necessity, to reflect on the societal roles of historians of technology and to rethink relations between scholarship and policy formation.

About the Speaker

Professor Wiebe E. Bijker

Wiebe E. Bijker is Professor of Technology and Society at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim and Professor Emeritus at Maastricht University, The Netherlands. He is chairman of the board of NWO-WOTRO, the Dutch research council for global sustainable development research, and member of the Rathenau Institute Board, the Dutch organization for technology assessment. Prof. Bijker is founding co-editor of the monograph series “Inside Technology” of MIT Press since 1988. He was trained in applied physics and earned his PhD in the history and sociology of technology. In 2006, Prof. Bijker received the John Desmond Bernal Prize, awarded jointly by the Society for Social Studies of Science and Thomson Scientific, and in 2012 he was awarded the Leonardo da Vinci Medal by the Society for the History of Technology.

For more information, see: https://www.ntnu.edu/employees/wiebe.bijker.

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