Emerging Opportunities and Emerging Risks: Reflexive Innovation and the Case of Pervasive Computing
  • Universität Stuttgart, Institut für Sozialwissenschaften
  • Universität Kassel, Projektgruppe verfassungsverträgliche Technikgestaltung (provet)


The success or the failure of innovations is not merely depending on the reactions of those who are directly affected.i.e. companies, market players or regulating institutions. It is also influenced by the wider public sphere not necessarily restricted to national boundaries. Taking into consideration the changing value structures in modern western societies, we argue that forces of the public sphere will become increasingly important factors determining technological innovation and its assessment. The core model of innovation made up by the innovation networks, the market and political regulators has to be expanded. Our working model therefore enhances the inner circle of innovation and its three domains. The inner circle has to be embedded in a larger quadrangle encompassing four forces of the public sphere: media, the public as citizens, social mobilisation through organised civil society such as NGOs, and the scientific and trans-disciplinary discourse within expert communities. A model of innovation which considers the public sphere and risks emerging from innovations, could be called the ‘reflexive innovation’ model.

Pervasive computing is a good example of reflexivity. The new paradigm known as “pervasive computing” refers to a new development in the field of information and communication technology. On the one hand, pervasive computing promises to fulfil the dreams of mankind such as improving human effectiveness, information processing and memory performance. On the other hand, it also makes mankind’s nightmares, such as the complete surveillance of almost every aspect of life, possible.

The research project has two objectives: On the one hand, it aims, from a theoretical per-spective, to further develop the existing models of innovation and to concretize them in the pervasive computing field of activity. The innovation model comprising the innovation net-work, consumers and regulatory bodies has to be expanded by the public sphere: media, the public (as citizens), NGOs and the scientific community. The analysis will be set up in such a way that the results can be generalised and that the findings are also applicable for structurally comparable innovations.

On the other hand, from a practical perspective, the project aims to provide a substantial contribution to the development of in-depth guidelines compatible with legal standards for diverse groups of players and stakeholders.

The project will focus on pay per risk/ pay per use applications to allow in-depth analysis.

The research design encompasses desk research, national expert interviews with players and stakeholders, case studies in two major German companies as well as intercultural analyses. A synthesis and integration of the results into a model of reflexive innovation processes in the case of pervasive computing and development of best-practise and legally reviewed guidelines for the governance and management of the innovation process will enhance the transfer of project results.


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