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What is Constellation Analysis?

Constellation Analysis is an interdisciplinary bridging concept designed for sustainability, technology and innovation studies. One of its basic assumptions is that technical, natural and social developments are closely intertwined in current societies and can only be analysed and influenced when taking this heterogeneity into account. Heterogeneous elements form cohesive clusters that are characteristic of many problems perceived as urgent in the sciences and in everyday life. We call such an object of examination a constellation. A constellation is composed of various elements that are interrelated. One of its key features is the fact that it can and must be analysed from different perspectives in order to account for its diversity and heterogeneity. In this context, Constellation Analysis has beendeveloped at the CTS as a tool for interdisciplinary cooperation.

Constellations are comprised of four types of elements:

1. social actors (e.g. persons or groups),
2. natural elements (e.g. air, water, landscape etc.),
3. technical elements (e.g. hardware, power stations, objects) as well as signs/symbols (e.g. standards, laws, current political or social concepts).

The core concepts of Constellation Analysis are the equal ranking of the heterogeneous elements and focussing on the relations between these elements. The methodological principles of Constellation Analysis comprise a language intelligible to all participants, the graphical representation of the constellations and the discursive character of the analysis.

 

Who uses the Constellation Analysis?

The Constellation Analysis has been devised for academics working in interdisciplinary research and possibly their cooperation partners from the non-academic sector. Constellation Analysis is not restricted to any particular scientific theory or discipline, but is designed primarily for linking different disciplines.

The basic idea is to bring together various approaches, data sources, and forms of knowledge to create a picture of the constellation at large that can be shared by all of the perspectives involved. The perspectives of various academic disciplines as well as those of various social actors can be brought together in a constructive way.

 

What is the purpose of Constellation Analysis?

Constellation Analysis may serve various purposes: it can, for instance, be used to analyse and describe complex objects of investigation, to structure problem areas or discourses, to integrate different bodies of knowledge or to develop strategies and projects. It is designed to be of use in research that is not aimed purely at obtaining academic results but at contributing to the solution of societal problems. We developed it for research into issues of sustainability, technology and innovation, since these objects of investigation can often be represented in the form of heterogeneous constellations.

 

How do you conduct a Constellation Analysis?

Constellation Analysis is typically performed in three steps:

First you map the constellation. To do so, you need to identify the most important elements and arrange them in a way that corresponds to the way they are correlated. Mapping is done using coloured index cards on a whiteboard or pin board. Each element is regarded as having equal importance within the Constellation Analysis. Various, previously defined symbols are used to represent the elements as well as the correlations between the elements (cf. graphical elements/downloads).

Next, the functional principles and characteristics of the Constellation are analysed and interpreted. Finally, the dynamics that affect the Constellation are examined in a third step. These three steps are the basic principle of every Constellation Analysis. From there, it is possible to look into various questions. The book "Handbuch Konstellationsanalyse" offers checklists for conducting these three steps for different areas of application.

Hence, the method of the Constellation Analysis is based on visualising the constellations to be examined. The graphical representations form the starting point for correlating expertise from different academic disciplines and non-academic areas. They govern the interdisciplinary and the trans-disciplinary negotiating process about the best representation of reality. Along with the graphical representations pinpointing the basics, verbal explanations with detailed substantiations are used to go into greater detail and provide greater accuracy.

 

Where does the Constellation Analysis come from?

The concept and method of Constellation Analysis was developed by the five authors of the book "Handbuch Konstellationsanalyse". They work in interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research projects at the Centre for Technology and Society at Berlin Institute of Technology (TU Berlin).

 

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