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Navigating foresight in a sea of expectations: lessons from the sociology of expectations

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Foresight can be described as the articulation of possible futures. It has a range of applications and is used with different methods, for different objectives and in different settings. Yet, anticipation in science and technology is not limited to foresight, but occurs in many more informal ways. This paper investigates the phenomenon that socio-technical developments are saturated with formal and informal anticipations and discusses the implications of this condition for foresight. The range of foresight studies is reviewed as well as the main results of the sociology of expectations, which studies the informal production and circulation of expectations in science and technology. Finally, three generic lessons from the sociology of expectations are derived, and it is discussed how these support or limit the ambitions of foresight.

Keywords: expectations of technological change; foresight; technological change and dynamics; technology and innovation studies; technology road mapping

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Innovation Studies,Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Utrecht University, 3508 TCUtrecht, The Netherlands

Publication date: September 1, 2012

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