Communities of Integration Workshop

Tempe Mission Palms Hotel
Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ
May 21-22, 2013

The purpose of this workshop is to bring together several different communities, each of whom studies SocioTechnical Integration in a slightly different way. In addition to the four principle communities (STIR, SEE, Toolbox, and Trading Zones), other participants are certainly welcome to participate in the learning and discussions.

When we bring these four communities into dialogue, we are interested in three main questions – form, means, and ends – that will reveal important differences in each approach to STI. Form focuses on the 'what' of each approach to STI – differing focuses, fundamental questions, and frameworks for understanding interactions. Means consists of ways of both studying and facilitating STI, including how opportunities and challenges are identified, how these projects of integration are navigated, and how communication and relationship building occurs. Ends seeks to identify the 'why' of STI, including the value of STI, STI's role in broader society, and approach-specific motivations.

Please spend some time before the workshop reviewing these brief summaries of the four main communities to help ensure a productive discussion. Also, don't hesitate to be in contact if you think there's another community that ought to be considered!

Applied Ethics

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Form: Integration, understood as deliberate attempts to bring the works of socio-humanist and natural scientist into more productive relationships, could be connected to calls for rethinking the established social contract. Integration appears as an attempt to repair a defect or deficiency of traditional ways of working, addressing a question of how the division of labor between scientific and political institutions also affects professional identities of scientist and socio-humanist researchers. In Charles Taylor's analysis, one could say, western cultures lack reflexive awareness of the way classical epistemology have come to endorse or "model" the relationships between a range of societal practices, as laid out in the division of labor in the social contract.

In this framing, the promotion of interdisciplinarity could be seen as based on an assumption that a) some knowledge or enabling expertise is missing in the respective research practices but b) interdisciplinary work of improvement does not flow easily due to how disciplinary boundaries is maintained by the ideals of the social contract.

In case of philosophy – notions like applied ethics or applied philosophy has functioned as umbrella terms for a philosophy that seek interdisciplinary collaboration in order to do better philosophy on the one hand that produce academic work that feed productively into other academic disciplines on the other hand.

Means: Applied philosophy seeks close interaction between philosophers and the research field (and would need to acquire interactional expertise). The methodological challenges of philosophers are often not discussed against an empirical background as the practitioners are not trained in empirical work as such. Doing "field" philosophy or "philosophy in practice" (or similar terms), is rather contrasted to "armchair" philosophy - indicating a need for philosophical analysis to better come to grips with the arguments, nuances and facts of the cases under discussion as the philosophers strive to provide the best account of how a given group of practitioners has chosen to perform their practices in a certain way. Such an account would in turn represent an intervention as it would challenge the ethos of the practitioners' practice and thereby provide means of ways to improve the practice from within.

Ends: Seek integration in order to make philosophy in general or (professional) ethics in particular relevant or productive in the context of practice where philosophical or ethical issues arise, are formulated and discussed.


  • Nydal, R., Efstathiou, S., Lægreid, A. Crossover Research: Exploring a Collaborative Mode of Integration. I: Little by Little. Expansions of Nanoscience and Emerging Technologies. IOS Press 2012.
  • Charles Taylor (1984) "Philosophy and Its History". In Rorty, R., Schneewind, J. B. and Skinner, Q. (eds.) Philosophy in History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Steve Toulmin (1982) How medicine saved the life of ethics. Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, 25, s. 736–750.

(With thanks to Rune Nydal for this contribution)

Constructive Technology Assessment

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Form: CTA is an attempt to broaden technology developments by including more aspects and more actors, and a way to overcome the institutionalised division of labour between promotion and control of technology. The separation of "promotion" and "control" of technology in our societies emerged in the 19th century and remains with us (Rip, Misa & Schot 1995). For newly emerging technologies like nanotechnology, which live on promises, CTA has to address uncertain futures. Organizing such workshops by CTA agents is theorized to be a soft intervention in ongoing developments, one that contributes to making ongoing co-evolution of science, technology and society more reflexive.

Means: CTA combines diagnosis of technology development dynamics and societal embedding with "soft" intervention. Analysis of, and insights into, these dynamics—including promises, expectations and emerging irreversibilities—can be translated into leverage for change. For emerging technologies, CTA combines (1) the building of sociotechnical scenarios of possible technological developments and the vicissitudes of their embedding in society and (2) the organizing and orchestration of strategy-articulation workshops with a broad variety of stakeholders (Schot and Rip 1997). The scenarios help to structure the discussion in the workshops (Robinson 2010) and stimulate learning about possible strategies (Parandian 2012). Ideally, CTA workshops will reflect dynamics in the wider world, functioning like a micro-cosmos, and allowing participants to mutually probe one another's worlds. They allow participants to consider alternatives, modifications to their strategies and eventual real world interactions, without immediate repercussions. The scenarios speak to an enactor perspective, in their projection of further development of a new technology, but with unexpected shifts (for enactors) and repercussions. To the extent that stakeholders representing comparative selectors are present in the workshops, the scenarios are more likely to reflect what is at stake in the worlds of the participants. Scenarios must also offer challenges to participants' understanding of the situation, so insights from social science (e.g., STS). CTA also has a larger scope in mind; its practitioners can thus seek to circulate in multiple settings, increasing reflexivity through anticipation.

Ends: CTA for new technologies aims to broaden design and development, at an early stage. Thus, it has an upstream bias: better outcomes result from doing better at an earlier stage. It is a bias, because it is the overall co-production process that leads to eventual outcomes, and not determinism. CTA arose as part of a larger perspective, laid down in the government's Policy Memorandum on Integration of Science and Technology in Society (Ministerie van Onderwijs en Wetenschappen 1984), and positioned as part of an overall move towards more reflexive co-evolution of science, technology and society (Rip 2002). CTA aims to bridge the gap between innovation and the consideration of social aspects which inform attempts at "control", and in doing so, broaden technology development and its embedding in society. It is "constructive" TA because it aims to be part of the construction of new technologies and their embedding in society. Broadening technology development and increasing reflexivity serve a purpose. Schot & Rip (1997) emphasized an overall goal served by CTA of a better technology in a better society. This is a substantive goal; the CTA objective of including more actors is often taken as advocating more participation, and thus, mistakenly refers to a goal of democratization of technological development (Genus 2006; cf. also Callon et al. 2001 for an intermediate position). Learning in sectors and in society is a further overall goal, and stimulating such learning is a broad objective for CTA.

(With thanks to Arie Rip for this contribution)

Field Philosophy

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Form: Field Philosophy is offered in contrast to the disciplinary approach that has dominated philosophy across the 20th century. The chief audience for 20th century philosophy consisted of other philosophers. This is true even in the cases of "applied" and "experimental" philosophy, which typically treat every-day problems or engaging with non-philosophers as occasions for testing philosophical theories. Field Philosophy aims to engage people outside the field of philosophy, with the initial engagement framed in terms of their problems, rather than in terms of perennial problems of philosophers. Field Philosophy thus takes a dedisciplined approach to philosophy (Frodeman 2012), and a metaphilosophy, a critique of what counts – and an argument for what should count – as philosophy in the 21st century.

Means: Frodeman, Briggle, and Holbrook (2012) outline three characteristics of Field Philosophy:

  1. Audience: The audience for field philosophers is in the first instance non-academics – although we view the relationship between academic and non-academic peers as reciprocal. The "problem" the field philosopher aims to address is determined, at least initially, by non-academics. This lends itself to a case-study approach, or an engagement at the local project level (the "field" in Field Philosophy).
  2. Theory: Field Philosophy treats theory differently from 20th century academic philosophy. A disciplinary philosopher first works out a theory, then (sometimes) applies it to real-world cases, usually in order to test or refine the theory. Even bioethicists, who, like the field philosopher, are concerned with finding solutions to real-world problems, tend to impose preformed theories or ethical frameworks on those problems (Briggle 2010). The field philosopher begins by looking for controversies where she can help mend or "ameliorate" a problem. At some point she usually also develops a theory about her work. As a result, field philosophy has an alternative notion of rigor where timeliness and context sensitivity can override the epistemic standards of disciplinary expertise (see Frodeman 2010).
  3. Evaluation: Field philosophy proposes a different view of what counts as success in philosophy. Whereas traditional academic philosophy tends to use disciplinary criteria to judge the extent to which philosophical research increases our understanding of the world, field philosophy balances the disciplinary value of increasing our understanding of the world with the transdisciplinary value of helping the world address its problems. Instead of relying on disciplinary standards of evaluation, field philosophers seek alternative accounts of the impact of their efforts. These accounts incorporate both quantitative and qualitative approaches to assessing the impact of Field Philosophy in particular contexts.

Ends: In the first instance the goal is societal betterment (rather than, say, an increase in theoretical rigor, citations, or the achievement of tenure), which take different meanings depending on the case study. Secondarily, we seek a better understanding of how philosophy can make a difference in the world. Third, we seek better philosophical theory.

Outcomes: Recent cases include acid mine drainage, climate change, a Comparative Assessment of Peer Review (CAPR) at science and technology funding agencies, and fracking. In the latter, our Future of Energy Project has focused on natural gas development (drilling and fracking) regulations in the City of Denton, TX.


  • Briggle, Adam (2010). A rich bioethics: Public policy, biotechnology, and the Kass council. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press.
  • Frodeman, Robert (2012). "Philosophy Dedisciplined," Synthese, September, 2012.
  • Frodeman, Robert, Adam Briggle, and J. Britt Holbrook (2012). Philosophy in the age of neoliberalism. Social Epistemology: A Journal of Knowledge, Culture, and Policy. 26 (2-4). DOI:10.1080/02691728.2012.722701.

(With thanks to Robert Frodeman, Britt Holbrook, Adam Briggle, and UNTs Center for the Study of Interdisciplinarity for this contribution)

Socio-Technical Integration Research (STIR)

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Form: The STIR (socio-technical integration research) project embeds humanities scholars and social scientists within laboratories to probe the possibility and utility of collaborative inquiry to articulate, enhance and stimulate "midstream modulation" of material practices and technology development. Midstream modulation takes place in three iterative stages of inquiry by technical experts engaged in research and innovation: de facto, in which material, social, cultural, ethical and economic aspects interact with human agency and choice; reflexive, in which such aspects are recognized as such by practitioners; and deliberative, in which decision making takes them more explicitly into account. STIR enrolls participating lab scientists as collaborators, while embedded humanists frequently contribute to the work of the lab.

Means: STIR has pioneered the 12-week "laboratory engagement study" in which the results of ethnographic participant-observation are fed back into the field of study in real-time. This is done largely through a semi-structured "decision protocol" that asks fundamental, open-ended questions. The frequent and regular use of the protocol facilitates collaborative description of ongoing decision processes, which in turn serves as the basis for collaborative inquiry.

Ends: The purpose of conducting this type of engaged research is to inform the design and evaluation of future integrative efforts to ensure that they are effective (and not counter-productive) at informing the shape, direction and outcomes of emerging technologies in socially responsive ways. In the process, the research aims to explore, develop and ideally demonstrate alternative, self-critical, yet productive meaning making practices among (state funded) scientific professionals and technical experts.

Outcomes: STIR studies have been conducted in over two-dozen labs on three continents and have demonstrated that lab researchers can become more reflexively aware of societal aspects of their work, develop more deliberative processes of decision making and, alter their material practices and research directions (Fisher 2007; Fisher et al. 2010; Flipse et al. 2012; Schuurbiers 2011).

Studies of Expertise and Experience (SEE)

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Form: Interactional Expertise (IE) is a form of socio-technical integration that emphasizes the role of expert individuals in being able to learn the language of a new specialization (e.g., a sociologist learning the language of a physicist). IE is gained at the individual level through prolonged immersion – known as "enculturation" – within a specialist community. It requires direct and ongoing interaction with full-fledged experts in the field to maintain this linguistic proficiency. IE is generally tested for through a blinded Turing Test against a conventional expert in the field by answering questions asked by expert judges. If the IE can only be identified from the established expert at a chance rate, they have achieved interactional expertise.

Means: While this linguistic immersion and fluency allows for a wide range of socio-technical integration, it does not actually demand more than multidisciplinarity. Synthesis and integration of multiple expert domains is optional, and can occur to varying degrees. A hobbyist might obtain IE in a domain of interest but not integrate it with their primary expertise at all. A sociologist could use IE to study a group of scientists, opening room for some cross-disciplinarity and reflective integration. By contrast, collaborators could obtain a high degree of IE in each other's disciplines, resulting in the emergence of a truly transdisciplinary project.

Ends: Accordingly, the ends of IE are highly variable. As argued by Kennedy (forthcoming) and Kennedy & Plaisance (SEESHOP 2012), interactional experts can have vastly different motivations for acquiring IE. Much as IE isn't necessarily transdisciplinary, IE does not imply anything about the two (or more) disciplines – a expert in a social science could become an IE in another social science, without exemplifying socio-technical integration. In the end, IE is a powerful tool for facilitating socio-technical integration, but doesn't necessarily always represent STI.

Toolbox Project

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Form: The Toolbox Project examines the use of structured, philosophical dialogue as a means of facilitating the enhancement of collaborative communication in research that crosses disciplinary and professional lines. The project has two components: outreach and research. Since its inception in a team-based Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship project at the University of Idaho, the Toolbox Project has aimed to use philosophical concepts and methods in an outreach effort designed to enhance the ability of collaborators to communicate efficiently about their shared project. In conjunction with this, the project has conducted research concerning the impact of philosophical dialogue on communication dynamics in collaborative science and the value of structured dialogue as a method of evaluating epistemic integration in the context of inter- and transdisciplinary projects.

Means: The Toolbox approach has two primary components: a survey instrument and a workshop. The survey instrument—the "Toolbox"—is a structured set of prompts organized in modules. Each prompt expresses a fundamental assumption one might make about aspects of research activity, and an associated Likert scale allows collaborators to indicate whether this assumption figures into their own research or professional worldview. Together, the prompts cover a wide range of epistemic, metaphysical, and axiological assumptions. The survey instrument is distributed and completed by collaborators in a workshop setting. The bulk of the workshop is devoted to a lightly facilitated dialogue among collaborators about their research and professional worldviews, structured by the categories of assumptions contained in the Toolbox instrument. Data of several different types are collected before, during, and after the workshop, providing the project with insight into any effect the experience has on participants.

Ends: The leading idea behind the Toolbox approach is that structured dialogue about research and professional assumptions will enhance self- and mutual understanding, thereby leading to more effective and efficient communication about the collaborative project. In addition to enhancing the communication dynamic of participating teams, the approach has been used to evaluate the ability of teams to communicate effectively across disciplinary and professional lines.

Outcomes: We have conducted 98 Toolbox workshops around the world, with a variety of cross-disciplinary groups at several levels (e.g., undergraduate, graduate, professional). To date, we have produced three distinct Toolbox instruments: the original instrument that focuses on STEM research, one that concerns translational health science, and one that concerns transdisciplinary climate science. In addition to NSF funding, we have received support through partnerships with several large, transdisciplinary initiatives around the United States. Evidence collected to date indicates that participation in the workshop has a salutary impact on self- and mutual understanding of research approaches (Eigenbrode et al. 2007; O'Rourke and Crowley 2012; Schnapp et al. 2012).

(With thanks to Michael O'Rourke for this contribution)

Trading Zones

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Trading is one of the oldest human activities, and a zone is where trades are most likely to occur, especially among different cultures who do not share a common language or culture. Trading posts are examples of zones, as are ports.

Peter Galison proposed that trading zones also occur among scientists, engineers and policy-makers working on projects like the development of radar, on giant telescopes, on nuclear particle detectors, etc. Galison focused mostly on the scientists, but these zones include other stakeholders.

In order to trade over an extended period of time, participants in a zone have to develop a common language. Galison says this process begins with a shared jargon. It is often true that even closely related scientific communities attach different meanings to the same term, and this has to be sorted out before they can exchange knowledge and work effectively to build systems together. If the trading zone continues, participants will develop a kind of pidgin and eventually, a creole--which is the start of a new language, because creoles can be taught to a new generation (eg, graduate students). For example, the dominant language in Haiti is a creole, and languages like English evolved from creoles.

Galison emphasizes that trading zones are most necessary when disciplines try to exchange knowledge and methods across apparently incommensurable divides.

When humanists and social scientists collaborate with scientists and engineers, as I have done for years, there is an initial apparently incommensurable divide. Work may begin as a division of labor--I do the societal dimensions part on a grant, the scientists do their parts, we only have the simplest understanding of what each other are doing--we may share a bit of jargon, but mainly sharing time and money is our trade.

But on deeper collaborations like STIR and like a new nanotechnology major I am creating--that puts societal dimensions at the center--the knowledge exchanges have to involve assumptions also (as the Toolbox emphasizes). I have to gain what Collins calls interactional expertise in the domains of my fellow nanoscientists, and they gain interactional expertise on ethical and policy dimensions. Here instead of a creole, we try to understand enough of each others language and epistemology to communicate.

One end result of a successful trading zone may be a new disciplinary community--like service science.

For more on trading zones, see Gorman, M. E. (Ed.). (2010). Trading zones and interactional expertise: Creating new kinds of collaboration. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

(With thanks to Michael Gorman for this contribution)