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Methodological Approaches

The ZTG provides a pool of proven methodological approaches that are constantly used and further developed. In this connection, individual methods of qualitative and quantitative social research are remodeled in such a way that they enable and support collaborations with engineering and natural sciences as well as transdisciplinary research. The reflective loops within these exchange processes contribute to quality assurance and, at the same time, to an increase in fault tolerance. The methodological approaches can be roughly divided into three “families”:

Analysis and modeling of socio-technological constellations

Incompatible views in interdisciplinary cooperation can be dealt with by means of modeling options that adequately consider not only factors of social influence in the narrow sense but also the impact of natural, technical and discursive elements. The development and practical testing of productive methods for this integration beyond the “two cultures” is one of the ZTG’s specialties. Examples of such methodological approaches include constellation analysis, the GIS-based presentation of interactions and the mapping of knowledge and non-knowledge.

Participation

At the ZTG, we develop and test methods that factor in the knowledge of practice partners (stakeholders in the narrow sense, as well as users and citizens) in order to master the complex situations that are socio-technologically or socio-ecologically problematic. In doing so, we create a broader knowledge base for processes of technological development (for instance, by means of demand analyses or by applying usage practices within the meaning of participatory design), for technology-related decision-making processes (for instance, by means of focus groups or citizens’ juries), or for complex negotiating and regulating processes (for instance, by means of multi-level governance or participatory governance).

Technology design and assessment

The ZTG pursues the opening of traditional technology assessment towards a broader understanding of technology design that tries to integrate societal needs and problem situations into all process phases of technology development and implementation. Methodological components in this kind of approach include, among other things, the application of usability tests and acceptance research at an early stage of technological development, as well as the assessment of future relations between technological potential and societal needs (for instance, with the aid of scenarios and social experiments). The combination and transfer of innovations play an important role in the design of technologies. This entails a changed understanding of innovation, according to which social and technological innovations are regarded as being closely interrelated.

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