INSITE is a coordination action sponsored by the European Union program DG connect on the innovation society, sustainability and ICT. INSITE’s principle purpose is to contribute to a sustainable future for society and the environment: our consortium includes scientists and practitioners from a varied range of disciplines and organizations. Partners of INSITE are ECLT (European Centre for Living Technology) together with other 10 European research centres and networks.
Is our society sustainable?
The overriding imperative for our society is economic growth. The engine of this growth is innovation, the creation of new kinds of artifacts. But the increasing threatens of environmental, social and economic crises urge us to pose a question: is ‘the innovation society’ sustainable? Researchers at INSITE are investigating whether Western society’s innovation processes and its dependence on them might lie at the root of the sustainability crises. And if so – what can be done about it?
This is INSITE’s perspective [from INSITE Project main page]:
- The way in which our society is organized has become more and more dependent on innovation, simply intended as the ability to constantly generate new artifacts.
- The social, cultural and technological aspects of innovation processes are inextricably linked through a positive feedback dynamic.
- This positive feedback dynamic generates inherently unpredictable externalities that can threaten the sustainability of the environment and social organization itself.
- The only way society can respond to this is by changing the way in which it monitors, evaluates and engages in the processes through which it transforms its own organization.
Innovation and sustainability | A Manifesto
Some general concepts [see full description of the theory at INSITE web page].
In the Innovation Society, innovations occur in cascades: new artifacts, organizational transformations and new attributions of functionality are linked in a positive feedback dynamic.
To describe this dynamic, we distinguish two kinds of invention activities: those that are intended to deliver an existing functionality ‘better-faster-cheaper’ than the artifacts that currently do so, and those that are designed to deliver new kinds of functionality. An innovation cascade can be initiated by either type of invention, and in any cascade both types are present. The positive feedback, though, runs primarily through the second kind, as follows:
- New artifact types are designed to achieve some particular attribution of functionality;
- Organizational transformations are constructed to proliferate the use of tokens of the new type;
- Novel patterns of human interaction emerge around these artifacts in use;
- New attributions are generated to describe functionality participants might obtain from them;
- New artifacts are conceived and designed to instantiate the new attributed functionality.
Innovation and Sustainability
Main question – Is the innovation society sustainable? Can it continue to innovate its way out of problems brought on by innovation? Can the innovation society prevent environmental disaster? Or can it satisfy such basic needs as sufficient food, decent housing, sanitation and work for everyone, or will the substantial and increasing percentage of the world’s population whose needs are not effectively targeted threaten the social stability enjoyed by those privileged enclaves that are?
Innovation cascades produce disruptive changes that may lead to sustainability crises. The usual, but inadequate, response to these is more innovation, unleashing new cascades, and new crises. The core challenge in improving our responses is to link current, reductionist, irresponsible approaches within a systemic conscious view, and to contribute to the effective implementation of social and environmental sustainable practices [see full article here].
Designing a more Sustainable Europe: Stories for Change and Innovation | Workshop at Ca’ Foscari 31.01-01.02.2014
The first INSITE workshop of 2014, from January 31 to February 1 at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, Aula Baratto, will focus on Narratives about Sustainability, Innovation and Local Development issues within the European Union with the aim to foster a concrete and stimulating dialogue with the invited organizations (DIPOs – Distributed Innovation Policy Organizations) on how it could be designed and developed a common strategy for guiding the cascades of changes – induced by innovation projects – towards a more socially and environmentally sustainable future. As an INSITE workshop, the meeting will provide the participants with a common ground: social innovation as defined by prof. David Lane. The workshop will be divided into two parts. Friday the 31st of January will consist of scheduled presentations and roundtables, which will address the mentioned issues also by using the approach (and tools) developed within the Emergence by Design project.
Saturday the 1st of February will be dedicated to working groups and discussion that will form/raise around topics of common interest that would have emerged during the first sessions and in preliminary online talks among the workshop’s participants. Program: available here.
The European Centre for Living Technology (ECLT) is an international Research Centre, based at Università Ca’ Foscari, Venice, dedicated to the study and creation of a
new generation of technologies which embody the essential properties of life, such as self-organization, adaptability, capacity to evolve and
react to environmental stimula, etc.