The Return of Discredited Technology
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Maastricht University, firstname.lastname@example.org
Supervisor: Prof. Harro van Lente, Dr. Ragna Zeiss
Zahar worked as written press journalist for several years after obtaining his Bachelor degree in Journalism and Mass Communication. He holds a Master degree in ESST, which he defended with a thesis titled “The role of non-human actors in the management of innovation processes in firms: A case study in a large service provider in Norway”. Since then he worked as researcher at Radboud University Nijmegen in a Horizon 2020 project on the role of sustainable energy technologies, particularly smart grids, in society. In September 2017 he embarked on his PhD trajectory in Maastricht University STS group.
The focus of Zahar’s PhD project is on the fate of discredited and/or phased out technologies. He aims to investigate the dynamics of technologies after their development or application has been (thought to be) discontinued. Examples are digital peer-to-peer networks, CFCs, various pharmaceuticals, full human cloning, eugenics, and geo- and climate engineering. Such technologies, or their versions, have been discredited and/or phased out at different times and in different parts of the world. What happens with technologies such as these? What happens with the knowledge base, the proprietary regimes, the professional communities, the user involvement, the governmental stakes? Do these find a backdoor back into research, applications and novel markets? How? Do they get divided into less recognisable components? How do the components travel to other parts of the world and how are they taken up? The dynamics of discredited technologies raises questions about the efficacy of future bans on technologies and the possibility of alternatives to bans.
To answer these and other questions Zahar draws from STS and innovation studies. Empirically, he will base his research on the interesting and troublesome histories of cloning, Soviet genetics, and selected pharmaceuticals. Analytically, the study will contribute to the notion of waves of innovation (Abernathy, Utterback), innovation regimes (Godoe, Geels) and the sociology of expectations (Van Lente, Brown). Politically, his project is aimed to contribute to discussions about the efficacy of science and technology restrictions and the performativity of fear in technological development.