What are techno-anthropologists?
Techno-anthropologists build bridges between technologies, sciences and humans.
Technologies, sciences are not value free
Techno-Anthropology calls for a new conception of anthropology by combining contributions and theoretical positions from different disciplines ( Post-phenomenology, critical theories, Actor-network theory, Science and Technology Studies etc). Although different understandings of what technologies mean are integrated into the curriculum, they describe technologies (and sciences) as not value-free, within their social-technical contexts. Thus different technologies can impact society in a multitude of ways following their designs or the context. All modern companies and organizations will have to understand this to mitigate undesirable effects, when implementing new technologies to various degrees (micro, meso, macro).
Techno-anthropologists (T-A) can help with this task to better acknowledge the societal effects or impacts of technological innovations, mediate human-technology interactions but also of scientific projects. They interact with the different stakeholders that are involved in the design process and the use of a technology or even more directly on the technical artifact, in order to ensure socially robust solutions. ( the T-A triangle depicts the different relationships and necessary expertise between designers; users and stakeholders).
- Interactional expertise: the T-A can to tackle various perspectives, controversies and re-balance power relations surrounding different technologies.
- Responsible innovation: The T-A can help designers to respect and implement ethical requirements, avoid undesirable side effects and address societal challenges.
- User-experience: by understanding contextual and cultural requirements, T-A can make an anthropology-driven design, towards socially robust responsible technological solutions.
One of the skills of techno anthropologists is technological assement:
One of the skills of Techno-Anthropologists is exploring, analyzing and assessing technologies (implemented or under implementation).Their methodologies are based on understanding of socio-technical configurations, ethical principles and participatory exercises. This expertise ensures holistic overview with different degrees of the technology that is being analysed or is under implementation. T-A can intervene following different temporalities:
Assessing the impacts of existing technologies
Translating ideas in concrete technology to ensure an ethical design
Assessing the impacts of potential technologies before innovation
Some areas where techno-anthropologists work:
As professionals T-A understands how to mediate connection between technological knowledge with an overview of various challenges and needs that individuals or companies have. They also drive and support sustainable innovation and have strong assessment skills within the field of transdisciplinary knowledge expertise. Here are few examples in the main areas where you can see T-A at work:
- Use and optimisation of IT systems and COVID test-centres.
- The operation room of the future
- Optimisation and use of health equipment
- Sewage and cloudburst
- Circular economy and sustainable cities (RRI – Responsible Research and Innovation)
- Human centred design: Citizen involvement in design processes
- User experience (UX) and user centred design (UCD)
- Knowledge assessment between users and experts
- Implementation and innovation of new technologies
- Future of learning mediated by IT