In common usage, "technoscience" is a compound noun that refers to the entire longstanding global human activity of technology combined with the relatively recent scientific method that occurred primarily in Europe during the Seventeenth and Eighteenth centuries. Technoscience thus comprises the history of human application of technology and modern scientific methods, ranging from the early development of basic technologies for hunting, agriculture or husbandry, e.g. the well, the bow, the plow, the harness, all the way through atomic applications, biotechnology, robotics and computer sciences. This more common and comprehensive usage of the term "technoscience" can be found in general textbooks and lectures concerning the history of science.

An alternate, more narrow usage occurs in some philosophic science and technology studies. In this usage, technoscience refers specifically to the technological and social context of science. Technoscience recognises that scientific knowledge is not only socially coded and historically situated but sustained and made durable by material (non-human) networks. Technoscience states that the fields of science and technology are linked and grow together, and scientific knowledge requires an infrastructure of technology in order to remain stationary or move forward.

The latter, philosophic use of the term technoscience was popularized by French philosopher Gaston Bachelard in 1953.[1][2][3] It was popularized in the French-speaking world by Belgian philosopher Gilbert Hottois in the late 1970s/early 1980s, and entered academic usage in English in the early 2000s.[4]

Conceptual levels of philosophical technoscience

We look at the concept of technoscience by considering three levels: a descriptive-analytic level, a deconstructivist level, and a visionary level.[5]

On a descriptive-analytic level, technoscientific studies examine the decisive role of science and technology in how knowledge is being developed. What is the role played by large research labs in which experiments on organisms are undertaken, when it comes to a certain way of looking at the things surrounding us? To what extent do such investigations, experiments and insights shape the view on ‘nature’, and on ‘our’ bodies? How do these insights link to the concept of living organisms as biofacts? To what extent do such insights inform technological innovation? Can the laboratory be understood as a metaphor for social structures in their entirety?

On a deconstructive level, theoretical work is being undertaken on technoscience to address scientific practices critically, e.g. by Bruno Latour (sociology), by Donna Haraway (history of science), and by Karen Barad (theoretical physics). It is pointed out that scientific descriptions may be only allegedly objective; that descriptions are of a performative character, and that there are ways to de-mystify them. Likewise, new forms of representing those involved in research are being sought.

On a visionary level, the concept of technoscience comprises a number of social, literary, artistic and material technologies from western cultures in the third millennium. This is undertaken in order to focus on the interplay of hitherto separated areas and to question traditional boundary-drawing: this concerns the boundaries drawn between scientific disciplines as well as those commonly upheld for instance between research, technology, the arts and politics. One aim is to broaden the term ‘technology’ (which by the Greek etymology of ‘techné’ connotes all of the following: arts, handicraft, and skill) so as to negotiate possibilities of participation in the production of knowledge and to reflect on strategic alliances. Technoscience can be juxtaposed with a number of other innovative interdisciplinary areas of scholarship which have surfaced in these recent years such as technoetic, technoethics and technocriticism.

Facets of Technoscience


As with any subject, technoscience exists within a broader social context that must be considered. Science & Technology Studies researcher Sergio Sismondo argues, “Neither the technical vision nor the social vision will come into being without the other, though with enough Concerted Effort both may be brought into being together”[6] . Despite the frequent separation between innovators and the consumers, Sismondo argues that development of technologies, though stimulated by a technoscientific themes, is an inherently social process.

Technoscience is so deeply embedded in our everyday lives that its developments exist outside a space for critical thought and evaluation, argues Daniel Lee Kleinman (2005). Those who do attempt to question the perception of progress as being only a matter of more technology are often seen as “champions of technological stagnation. The exception to this mentality is when a development is seen as threatening to human or environmental well-being. This holds true with the popular opposition of GMO crops, where the questioning of the validity of monopolized farming and patented genetics was simply not enough to rouse awareness.[7]


Science and technology are tools that continually change social structures and behaviors. Technoscience can be viewed as a form of government or having the power of government because of its impact on society. The impact extends to public health, safety, the environment, and beyond.[8] Innovations create fundamental changes and drastically change the way people live. For example, C-SPAN and social media give American voters a near real-time view of Congress. This has allowed journalists and the people to hold their elected officials accountable in new ways.


Chlorine chemists and their scientific knowledge helped set the agenda for many environmental problems: PCBs in the Hudson River are polychlorinated biphenols;[9] DDT, dieldrin, and aldrin are chlorinated pesticides; CFCs that deplete the ozone layer are chlorofluorocarbons. Industry actually manufactured the chemicals and consumers purchased them. Therefore one can determine that chemists are not the sole cause for these issues, but they are not blameless.[10]

See also


  1. Gaston Bachelard, La materialisme rationel, Paris: PUF, 1953.
  2. Don Ihde, Expanding Hermeneutics: Visualism in Science, Northwestern University Press, 1999, p. 8.
  3. James M. M. Good, Irving Velody, The Politics of Postmodernity, Cambridge University Press, 1998, p. 178.
  4. See for example: Ginette Verstraete, Tim Cresswell, Mobilizing Place, Placing Mobility: The Politics of Representation in a Globalized World, Rodopi, 2002, p. 20.
  5. For the idea of discerning levels see Mangelsdorf's initial article version of 17 June 2005:
  6. Sismondo, Sergio (2004). An Introduction to Science and Technology Studies. Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 978-0-631-23444-9
  7. Klienmen, Daniel Lee. Science and Technology in Society : From Biotechnology to the Internet. Blackwell Pub, 2005
  8. Langdon Winner, The Whale and the Reactor: The Search for Limits in an Age of High Technology (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986)
  9. “Hudson River PCBs — Background and Site Information".United States Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved 2007-12-31.
  10. Woodhouse, Edward. The Future of Technological Civilization. Print.


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