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Matthew Wisnioski

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Matthew Wisnioski

Matthew Wisnioski is Associate Professor of Science, Technology, and Society at Virginia Tech. He was trained as a materials scientist at the Johns Hopkins University and then as a historian at Princeton University. He studies how technoscientists navigate the world as they change it and it changes them. He is the author of Engineers for Change: Competing Visions of Technology in 1960s America (MIT 2012), which revealed how engineers’ participation in Vietnam era politics reshaped the meanings of “technology.” He is co-editor of Does America Need More Innovators? (MIT 2019), a dialogue among leading champions, critics, and reformers of innovation. He is finishing a book titled Everyone an Innovator: How Innovation Became a Way of Life and starting a new project on science education and new media. He has written for The Atlantic, Chronicle of Higher Education, IEEE Spectrum, and Washington Post. A proponent of “critical participation,” he has worked as an embedded humanist in engineering education reform programs and transdisciplinary art and technology collaborations.

Matthew Wisnioski participe au Programme Professeurs invités de l’EHESS, sur proposition de Sara Angeli Aguiton (CNRS, CAK) et Anne Rasmussen (EHESS, CAK).



Conférences en anglais.

Is STS an Innovation Discipline? Bridging Critique and Practice

Conférence à destination des étudiants du parcours HSTS de la mention SES (Sara Angeli Aguiton, Anne Rasmussen, Antonella Romano)

8 juin 2022, 11h-13h / EHESS, 54, boulevard Raspail, salle AS1_08

This talk explores the ambiguous relationship between STS and innovation. Innovation is increasingly contested: it is heralded as a driver of technology, economy, and human empowerment, but it is also maligned as a destructive force that privileges novelty above all. STS has played a key role in the making and unmaking of innovation. STS scholars have challenged the concept of innovation and its association with neoliberal economic and political forces. STS also has been a source of innovation expertise. From actor-network theory to “midstream modulation,” STS scholars have asked where knowledge, artifacts, and practices come from and how they travel. Moreover, there is a related tradition of STS scholars who seek to transform the values and practices of innovation from within laboratories, corporations, governments, and universities. I’ll show how and why the evolution of STS as innovation expertise has cultivated and spread theories of socio-technical change across institutions ranging from universities to corporate research centers. I’ll explain what impact this has had and how awareness of this history can inform critical practitioners of innovation.


Everyone an innovator: How Innovation Became a Global Way of Life

Dans le cadre du séminaire "Histoire globale des techniques : savoirs-faire dans l’histoire" d'Aleksandra Kobiljski

17 juin 2022, 10h-13h / Campus Condorcet, GED, salle 1.17

Today innovation is the dominant imperative of societies around the world. The demand to innovate sparks neoliberal anxiety and progressive hope as it extends from governments and corporations into kindergarten classrooms. This imperative is not just a search for better research and development methods or the cynical use of buzzwords; it is about the transformation of self and society via virtues we are to embody and cultural practices we are to perform. In this talk, I document the growth of innovation culture from World War II to the present. Based on a decade of archival and ethnographic research, I focus on the emergence of “innovation experts” and trace the evolution of the visions, institutions, and culture that they created. I spotlight the role of “innovators” as societal change agents in the proliferation of these visions and initiatives. My purpose in this empirical and pragmatic history is neither to valorize innovation nor to debunk it as a delusion. Rather, by documenting innovation culture’s contradictory impulses, we see why proponents came to view innovation as a universal good; who we imagine our future generations to be; how we should transform society to make them; why individuals and organizations struggle with the limitations that vision creates; why innovation is now a source of discord; and how we might imagine more equitable interpretations of social change. Whether one hope to harness innovation’s social power or to challenge it, we need to understand how and why innovation become a “way of life” in the first place.


Présentation du livre "Engineers for change. Competing Visions of Technology in 1960s America" (MIT Press, 2012)

Séminaire exceptionnel du Centre Alexandre-Koyré (Sara Angeli Aguiton, Anne Rasmussen)

21 juin 2022, 14h-16h / Campus Condorcet, Centre de Colloques, salle 3.01

We live in a moment where technology is at the center of interconnected global crises. What are the responsibilities of engineers and scientists in societal change? This talk provides historical reflection on problems of ongoing concern by addressing technology’s contested politics from the perspective of engineers. In the 1960s, “technology” arose as a dominant theme for a world on fire. Once championed as the source of social progress, critics identified technology as both cause and tool of militarism, environmental degradation, capitalist greed, authoritarian power, sexism and racism, loss of self and community, and impending societal collapse. I explore the role engineers played as intellectuals in this “technology & society” discourse. I document struggles among radicals, reformists, and establishment leaders as they challenged the status quo, cultivated ethical frameworks, and built educational centers to address technology’s promises and perils. I show how their engagement threatened existing power structures but ultimately reinforced an ideology of technological change as an inevitable force to which society must adjust. I then ask us to collectively discuss what the past offers us in the present and what, if anything, is different this time?


“Take Chances, Make Mistakes, Get Messy!”: Animating Late 20th Century

Dans le cadre du séminaire "Histoire globale des techniques : savoirs-faire dans l’histoire" d'Aleksandra Kobiljski

24 juin 2022, 10h-13h / Campus Condorcet, GED, salle 1.17

In the mid-1990s, a crazy-haired teacher named Ms. Frizzle took children on field trips inside the human body and to the outer reaches of space. The Magic School Bus was a centerpiece experiment to reinvigorate American science education that became a global phenomenon. The television series’ catchphrase, “Take Chances! Make Mistakes! Get Messy!” suggested new ways of getting children excited about science. In contrast to a white-coated man performing demonstrations, the show used cartoon animation to help viewers experience science in action and to allowed the children to venture into unreachable environments and imagined worlds. Along the way, Ms. Frizzle encouraged kids to take risks, to fail, and to find patterns. Beyond its pedagogical innovations, The Magic School Bus was an experiment in how to pay for the technoscientific future. The show resulted from a public-private “synergy” between government agencies, commercial publishers and broadcasters, high tech companies, and even McDonald’s. It combined science education with CD-ROM software, a traveling show, and a clothing line. In this talk, I use The Magic School Bus to analyze “edutainment” and science education reform in the late-20th century. I explore how in content and in form, The Magic School Bus contributed to an emerging model of “STEM” education in a fraught era for science.

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