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Jens Schippl

jens schipplAtj1∂kit edu

Analysing socio-technical systems

For analysing the interplay and the interfaces between societal demand patterns and technological developments the term “socio-technical system” is used. In context of the alliance ENERGY-TRANS, the energy system is often conceptualised as such a socio-technical system. The terms exemplifies that a transition of the energy system is more than the substitution of old technologies by new ones. However, it is far from being clear what exactly a socio-technical system is and what should be transformed in this system. Systems consist out of elements and relations between these elements. They have borders and they divide the word in things or elements which are in the system and in those that are outside the border. These borderlines are not necessarily “natural”. Systems and their borders are constructs that are built for a certain purpose. Further, inside the system the degree in detail can vary considerably between different perspectives on a system. The degree in “granularity” can vary according to, e.g., the intention of the observer, according to the research question or to the disciplinary backgrounds. In many cases, only selected areas or levels in a system are part of a more thorough analysis.Smart Grid; Photo: KIT


In particular in highly interdisciplinary consortia there is the challenge that concepts of systems are implicitly formative for the design of projects. This may lead to inconsistencies in methodological approaches as well as to barriers in terms integration of results of different projects. The IKT “analysing socio-technical systems” aims at tackling the challenges and related questions mentioned above. It aims at clarifying the understandings of “socio-technical systems” in the alliance. In doing so, it aims at revealing inconsistencies and at building a basis for a better integration of the results of the different projects in the alliance. It will support a process of “learning” in this field.