Mittwoch, 03. Mai 2017, 15:00 - 16:30 iCal

Guest lecture Dr. Karen Kastenhofer

Studying a ‘newly emerging technoscience’: accounting for change and stability in science

Hs. 3E im Neuen Institutsgebäude (NIG)
Universitätsstraße 7, 1010 Wien


How can we conceive of the so called ‘newly emerging sciences and technologies’ (NESTs) in science and technology studies? What is to be understood under labels such as ‘systems biology’ or ‘synthetic biology’? What do they stand for and what are the potential scientific and societal implications of these phenomena? The introduction of systems or synthetic biology within the scientific literature comes with a surprisingly stable narrative: they are new, they have been enabled by technological innovation, they come with a paradigm shift and they have revolutionary potential. Case studies comparing the emergence of synthetic biology in UK and France already point at the institutional aspects that factor in such change (Molyneux-Hodginson and Meyer 2009, 2016). Nyhart (1995) and other historical studies of change and stability in biology (e.g. Strasser 2002) have also highlighted this point.

The presented case study aims at illustrating the ways a local institutional landscape shapes how a new field such as systems biology is established, as what it is established and how it is perceived and impersonated by scientists. To do so, I will focus on four aspects: the impact of generational patterns, the impact of (sub)disciplinary fragmentation, the impact of institutional logics and the impact of the broader national innovation regime, all of which adhere to specific locales at specific historical times. As a result, I not only draw a picture of the context dependency of a technoscience’s emergence, but also of the relative narrowness of the scope of an announced revolution – the one often related to systems biology and synthetic biology in the media discourse – and the relative radicalness of the rather tacit change its context of emergence faced in the meantime.

Karen Kastenhofer is a scholar in Science and Technology Studies (STS) at the Institute of Technology Assessment, Austrian Academy of Sciences.


Doktoratskolleg "Naturwissenschaften im historischen, philosophischen und kulturellen Kontext"


Mag. Mag. Mag. Ramon Pils, DipTrans
Institut für Geschichte
01 4277 40872