Technologies die. Almost. Normally, they slowly fade away. Parts of them are terminated rather abruptly, most parts incrementally and never completely. This has to do with the fact that “a technology” isn’t just one device, which can bust or reach obsolescence, or a technical structure that can mechanically erode, but we are looking at socio-technical systems with often unexpectedly complex ramifications that reveal themselves only after thorough analysis.
The fading out of socio-technical systems, as a passive development, can be distinguished from phasing them out, as an active effort. Exiting from socio-technical systems actively involves public governance, corporate management, civic movements, consumer choice, and many more practices, processes, and people. Discontinuation governance occurs in several forms of de- and realignment, from control, restriction, and reduction to the actual phase-out or even ban. Combining studies of governance and socio-technical system transformation, these elements together with replacement are core of heuristic of discontinuation governance pathways. Having studied the governance preparing the phase-out of the incandescent light bulb, within a broader comparative project including cases on nuclear energy production, DDT, and internal combustion engines for cars, I’m now focussing on coal.
Currently, the production of energy from increasingly gets attention and on the political agenda. It is part of a broader trend to divest from fossils. In this paper, I will explore the coal exit endeavours in Germany in comparison with other countries, interpret the process so far in the light of the aforementioned ‘discontinuation governance heuristic’, and show possible potentials for developing this approach further on the basis of new insights from the coal case.
14 Jun 2019
Nordic Science and Technology Studies Conference 2019