Category Archives: Allgemein

Workshop: Ignorance and non-knowledge: what consequences for democratic governance, politics and policy?

When: November 13-14, 2018
Where: Marietta-Blau-Saal, University of Vienna, Universitätsring 1, 1010 Vienna

Confirmed keynote speakers:
Linsey McGoey (University of Essex),
Matthias Gross (University of Jena, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ),
Stefan Böschen (RWTH Aachen),
Ulrike Felt (University of Vienna, Department of Science and Technology Studies).

Download Workshop Programme

About the workshop:
Ignorance and non-knowledge have become the subject of a growing body of research in the social sciences and humanities, giving rise to a new “sociology of ignorance.” In this line of thought, ignorance is not merely a consequence of the limits of our knowledge practices, but a knowledge practice in its own right. Concepts such as McGoey’s ‘strategic unknowns’ also challenge the assumption that power thrives only on information: In this perspective, ignorance and non-knowledge are often actively produced, cultivated, and exploited as a resource and a strategy.

While engagements with ignorance and non-knowledge have become more salient over the past decade, there are different conceptual understandings of these phenomena across disciplines. To begin with, sociologists of ignorance have highlighted the importance of nonknowledge practices as a resource for industry actors. Moreover, political sociologists, such as Matthias Gross, have recently made more explicit links between Beck’s concept of ‘risk society’, ignorance studies, and contemporary governance of risks and security. From a slightly different perspective, political scientists approach uncertainty – sometimes termed ‘contingency’ – as an inherent condition or even mechanism of governance, rather than an instrumentally negotiated outcome of governance.

This workshop takes these different understandings and concepts as points of departure and seeks to spark an interdisciplinary dialogue. In doing so, we seek to enhance our understanding of non-knowledge practices and their consequences for democratic governance, politics and policy. Specific questions of interest are:

• What relevance do different understandings of ignorance, contingency and uncertainty have for the study of governance?
• What practices of governing unknowable or unknown objects, and futures, can be discerned empirically?
• What strategies of action or inaction do non-knowledge and/or uncertainty provoke on the part of governance actors, and where and how can we identify such strategies?
• How do non-knowledge practices challenge or reinforce governance practices?
• What taxonomies of knowledge practices emerge in particular case studies and policy areas, and what do these practices mean for our understandings of governance in contemporary democracies?
• How are unknowns and uncertainties currently addressed in different policy arenas and research practices, and with what consequences?

Participation & Registration
Attendance of the workshop is free. Please sign up by emailing us at by 31 October and let us know which parts of the workshop you wish to attend.


Wann: Dienstag, 13 November 2018, 18:00 – 19:30
Wo: Alte Kapelle, Campus, Spitalgasse 2, University of Vienna

Wissenswert(e) Demokratie: Was hat Nichtwissen in evidenzbasierter Politik zu suchen?*

Klassische Modelle von demokratischer Politikgestaltung sind untrennbar mit der Vorstellung verbunden, dass politische Maßnahmen sich auf das beste vorhandene Wissen gründen sollten. Dass neben Wissen auch Werte und Ideologie Politikgestaltung färben, sehen BefürworterInnen von evidenzbasierter Politik oft als Störfaktor. Ebenso wird Nichtwissen häufig als Leerraum betrachtet, den es mit neuem Wissen zu füllen gilt. Diese Podiumsdiskussion versucht, die Rolle von Nichtwissen in der Politikgestaltung aus anderen Perspektiven zu beleuchten. Den Ausgangspunkt dafür bildet die These, dass Nichtwissen integraler Bestandteil jeder Wissensschöpfung ist, eine strategische Rolle spielen kann und damit auch mancher politischen Unentschlossenheit entgegenkommt. Wer entscheidet, was wissenswert ist, und wie gehen wir mit diesen „Wissenswerten“ in demokratischer Politikgestaltung um? Inwiefern lassen sich wissenssoziologische Thesen überhaupt mit dem Paradigma evidenzbasierter Politik vereinbaren?

Keynote: Matthias Gross „Die Evidenz für Nichtwissen“

Matthias Gross (University of Jena, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ)
Stefan Böschen (RWTH Aachen)
Ulrike Felt (Universität Wien)

Moderation: Katharina T. Paul

* Diese Podiumsdiskussion findet statt im Rahmen des internationalen Workshops „Ignorance and Non-knowledge: what consequences for democratic governance, politics, and policy?”

The workshop is organised by Katharina T. Paul, Ingrid Metzler, Erik Aarden (University of Vienna), and Helene Sorgner (AAU Klagenfurt). The Key Research Area ‘Knowledge societies in turbulent times’ (Faculty of Social Sciences) of the University of Vienna has generously agreed to co-fund the workshop, and additional funding will come from the FWF Austrian Science Fund (Grant #VA561), the Department of Political Science and STS Austria.

CFP – 2nd STS Austria Conference: Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt, 17-19 September 2018

Extended Deadline: 3 June 2018

“Innovation and Societal Transformation: Science, Democracy, and Sustainable Futures”

2nd STS Austria Conference, Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt, 17-19 September 2018

The dynamics and interrelationships between innovation and social change are one of the key topics in STS (Science, Technology & Society Studies), as well as a key issue in the exploration of sustainable futures. Around the globe and in many diverse ways, innovation has become a persistent concern—be it with regard to the competitiveness of research and business; the expected economic, environmental or social impacts; or the controversies around perceived future challenges, opportunities and ramifications. While the predominant notion of innovation is considered linear and primarily techno-scientific, STS analyses aim at better understanding the material, temporal and social complexities of innovation across various domains of contemporary societies. On this basis, the goal is to enlighten public debate and equip actors to be better able to contribute to the governance of innovation in society.

We would like to analyze and discuss the overall conference topic from three distinct perspectives:

–    Innovations as drivers of societal change, societal change as a driver of innovations:

Research in the STS tradition, including the history of science and technology and innovation studies, has produced a rich body of theories and case studies on interrelationships between science, technology and society. Of particular interest are cross-temporal, cross-sectoral, and cross-institutional comparisons, especially if they account for more recent or novel societal configurations, dynamics and outcomes of science, technology and innovation. We also invite presentations on how and why definitions of innovation have changed (e.g., regarding concepts and models of innovation; technological innovation and social innovation; or innovation and institutional or political reforms). How do innovations relate to societal change in particular areas? What dynamics of power are hereby at play? Which concepts of innovation and societal change co-exist that potentially conflict with each other? How do concepts of innovation relate to particular institutional constellations or political visions, both in theory and practice?

–    Innovations for societal transformation towards sustainable futures:

Research in many fields of scholarship (i.e., natural sciences, social sciences and humanities), together with various policy efforts at international, national and regional levels, have demonstrated that meeting the contemporary grand societal or global challenges necessitate fundamental changes in how knowledge, decision-making and practice are organized. Sustainable development (e.g., the Sustainable Development Goals as agreed upon in the United Nation’s Agenda 2030) provides basic orientations for approaching global challenges such as environmental degradation, social injustice, and misguided economic growth, while mostly black-boxing the predominant institutional frameworks of power. What kinds of knowledge are mobilized (or marginalized) in policies that aim at meeting the grand societal challenges? What institutional and cultural conditions contribute to innovations that respond to social needs (especially of the environment, the poor and otherwise disadvantaged) and allow for the reflection on the potentials and limitations of innovations? While the predominant modes of transnational innovation and economic competitiveness contribute to the production of global challenges, achieving long-term sustainable futures will also require science and technology to contribute to both technological and social innovations, and policies in support of research on, and for, societal transformation. How do particular research and innovation endeavors conceptualize and approach global challenges? Which concepts (of future societies, transformations, actors, etc.) are associated with innovations to be pursued? How can policy support research towards sustainable futures in a more democratic fashion (and what does democratic hereby mean)?

–    New deal for societal transformation, new social contract for transformative science and policy:

Far-reaching projects of political and institutional reform of the past and present have been referred to as “new deal,” while the particular configuration of science in society (e.g., as regards scientific freedom, the funding of science, and expectations towards the performance and outcomes of science) has been cast as the “social contract for science.” Considering the grand challenges ahead—which themselves provide a worthy subject for further critical inquiry—the envisioned societal transformations toward sustainable futures require changing commitments to what some would call a “global new deal.” Correspondingly, as science and policy are not only in place to serve such societal transformation, they may have to become increasingly transformative themselves. In consequence, this rather fundamental change in the configuration of science, policy and society (including the science-policy nexus) will likely need a new underlying agreement that spans institutions and societies. This raises further far-reaching questions: Should the distribution of risks and benefits of innovations be re-organized, especially among the public and private sectors, e.g. as regards financial commitments and rewards? How would the exploration of transformative development paths be supported, or undermined, by divergent political forms of government, in particular democratic or authoritarian ones? How would it affect some of the most foundational institutions of modernity, such as capitalist modes of production? Which forms of knowledge are needed in such emerging or envisioned new constellations, and how well is the contemporary science system equipped to provide them?

In addition to sessions relating to the overall conference topics outlined above, we will also organize an open track in order to facilitate wider participation of members and friends of STS Austria, and, in particular, to enable doctoral students and postdocs to present their projects. There will also be a pre-conference workshop organized  by graduate and doctoral students (see pdf: Call_ STS Austria 2018 Junior Workshop_Extended Deadline).

The conference Planning Committee invites abstracts of up to 300 words (office[at] The closing date for abstract submissions is 3 June 2018. You will be notified approximately three to four weeks later if your paper is accepted for presentation.

CFP – pdf: STS Austria-Call for Papers-extended deadline-2018 05

Conference Planning Committee:

Daniel Barben

Maximilian Fochler

Michael Ornetzeder

Petra Schaper-Rinkel

Helene Sorgner

Lisa Sigl

STS AUSTRIA Pre-conference Workshop for Junior Researchers and Students  – 17.09.2018, Klagenfurt


We are inviting contributions to a pre-conference workshop at the STS Austria Conference 2018, taking place on Monday, September 17th in Klagenfurt. The workshop will be dedicated to presenting and discussing original contributions by junior researchers, and aims to provide a space to critically engage with academic work and writing practices in STS.

Who this workshop is for:

If you are a student or otherwise self-identify as a junior researcher, working on questions related to science, technology and society, based in or around Austria, interested in getting to know your peers and their research, and looking for a friendly professional environment to present and discuss your work, this workshop is for you.

It does not matter whether your project (paper, thesis, intervention…) is still in its early stages or almost complete. All you need to participate is a short description (~ 300 words) of your idea and the motivation to develop it into a contribution that can be presented and discussed during the workshop, ideally by participating in our preparation meetings during the summer.

How we will prepare:

In preparation for the workshop, we will organize monthly online meetings over the course of the summer, allowing for peer-to-peer review by other participants and discussion of early drafts and works-in-progress. We encourage everyone interested in presenting at the workshop to also participate in these meetings, however, it is possible to register only for the workshop.              The first online meeting will be held in early June.

How to participate:

If you are interested in participating, please send an abstract or outline of your contribution to office[at] until June 3rd, 2018, indicating that your submission is intended for the pre-conference workshop.

pdf: Call_ STS Austria 2018 Junior Workshop_Extended Deadline


If you have any questions regarding the workshop or the preparation, don’t hesitate to contact us at helene.sorgner[at]


We are looking forward to your contributions!


Florentine and Helene