Panel 19

Imaginary organisations for reinvented professions. Technological expectations and the construction of the world.

Organizers: Enrico Maria Piras (1); Roberto Lusardi (2)

1: Fondazione Bruno Kessler, Italy; 2: University of Bergamo

Topics: Technoscientific promises, imaginaries and expectations

Keywords: Organization, Professions, Innovation, Imaginaries, Scenarios

Social studies of science and technology have a longstanding interest in Expectation Studies since the pioneering and (now) classic reflections on the mutual shaping of social and technology order (Bijker & Law 1994). Anticipations are crucial in understanding sociotechnical change given their role in every stage of the process and they have a generative role in securing funding, ensuring coordination of groups of actors and across time (vertical and temporal coordination) (Borup et al. 2006). From use cases crafted to guide designers in the development to the definition of pilot implementation settings, yet-to-be-created artifacts are narratively artefacts are narratively placed in scenarios whose realisation is the first moment in which heterogeneous engineering is practised. In this respect, expectations inscribed in use cases participate in users’ configurations just as scripts embodied in the technical artefact (Grint & Woolgar 2013). Expectations regarding the reconfiguration of organisational and professional practices can be constructed in a rigorous and formalised manner. They can follow the detailed analysis of the context or even with the full involvement of future users, as in the traditions of Computer Supported Cooperative Work or Participatory Design. Or they can or simply be sketched to justify the new artifact and attract potential investors.

This panel intends to propose a reflection on a specific dimension of expectations focussing on those relating to new organisational configurations and new ways of interpreting professional roles. While imaginary organisations for reinvented professions can be created with the sole purpose to provide a working scenario for developers, they are part of a transformative-normative device that aims to shape new arrangements by proposing an ethos to which actors should conform. Scenarios illustrate the conditions under which technologies can exist, showing how organisations and practitioners must reconfigure themselves and anticipating who should be blamed if they fail. In this respect, organisational configurations and professions are both the precondition and the outcome of the introduction of technical innovations.

The panel aims at gathering and promoting confrontation between scholars working at the intersection of STS, organization and profession studies and design. Even if to the trained eyes of scholars from such traditions such imaginary organizations and reinvented professions may appear at times naïve if not completely unrealistic, we would like to devote our attention to their analysis to investigate the implicit assumption they are based on and their word-making role in the process of innovation.

We invite contributions to explore how technoscientific promises create imaginary organizations and professions and how such scenarios are created, contested, and enacted at all stages of innovation.

Bijker, W. E., & Law, J. (Eds.). (1994). Shaping technology/building society: Studies in sociotechnical change. MIT press.
Borup, M., Brown, N., Konrad, K., & Van Lente, H. (2006). The sociology of expectations in science and technology. Technology analysis & strategic management, 18(3-4), 285-298.
Grint, K., & Woolgar, S. (2013). The machine at work: Technology, work and organization. John Wiley & Sons.