Social shaping of technology in TA and HTA

Christian Clausen, Yutaka Yoshinaka

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


    The paper discusses how the social shaping of technology (SST) approach may be useful in understanding the role played by technology assessment within the context of technological development and change. It is proposed that an SST perspective on TA (or HTA) yields particular insight, regardless of whether or not the TA activity bases itself on a social shaping understanding of technology. This is because SST addresses the socially negotiated character of technological development, where TA itself may be construed as an element influencing the process of such negotiation. At the same time, TA is a construction, that is, itself a product of negotiations involving social actors. Thus, an understanding that TA is socially shaped, and is involved in the shaping of technology, opens up for a perspective on TA as both entailing constraints and enablements within the context of the particular agenda-setting that it forms a part of. In regards to HTA’s activities specifically, this implies that the degree to which HTA can address the complexity of technology’s embeddedness within health care (its institutions, relevant social groups, and practices), depends on how well it can, through its institutional framework, define and broaden the scope of salient issues involved in the assessment. As the paper illustrates through cases from Danish experiences within the TA arena, this is by no means a question of making (H)TA more general. Rather, the broadened scope of agenda, which characterises SST, instead opens up for a less rigid and to a greater extent strategically more differentiated set of options with respect to how issues may be taken up and dealt with. In contrast to a technological deterministic approach where issues of concern (technology’s impacts or consequences) are attributed to technology in and of itself, SST seeks instead to explore how the framing of technology or its socially negotiated order may be a helpful point of departure for elucidating and grappling with the scope of action—or room for manoeuvre—which are afforded decision makers and other actors involved. The paper suggests a similar approach to TA and HTA’s treatment of the ethical aspects of technology development, namely, as subject to (re)negotiation in so far as technology is being negotiated through positioning of actors and their interaction in the course of technology’s shaping.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalPoiesis & Praxis
    Issue number2-3
    Pages (from-to)221-246
    Publication statusPublished - 2004


    • Technology studies
    • Social shaping of technology
    • Health Technology Assessment
    • Technology assessment


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