The Center for Technology and Society (CTS) – a cross-university cooperation platform for interdepartmental and interuniversity cooperation – was launched jointly by TU Wien, FH Campus Wien, FH Technikum Wien and the University of Vienna in fall 2019. "If we want to support innovative developments at the interface between technology and society in our research and teaching efforts, we have to cooperate and cross over organisational and disciplinary borders", states Sabine Seidler, Rector of the TU Wien and founder of the CTS, and points to the urgent societal challenges exemplified by large trends, such as the Digital Transformation, algorithmic technologies pervading our lives or the climate crisis. Sabine Seidler: "I am putting great hopes into new organisational concepts that diffuse the borders between subjects and disciplines within a given research perspective. Leading examples for this structural and topical approach are the Einstein Center Digital Future in Berlin and the scientific centers in Berkeley or Chicago, in which complex, urgent scientific questions are not being investigated by a single discipline or scientific area. Those centers are not organised in the traditional organisation structure of faculties, but follow the patterns of recent scientific developments."
Research questions centering on equality, the Digital Divide or social and reflexive sustainability have long transcended the discourse between socio-philosophical or cultural and economic theoreticians: discourse in technical subjects features comprehensive works and analysis on the current state of society.
In the working groups coordinated by the CTS, interdisciplinarity is not just a methodological approach, but a chance for transferring knowledge and education. Scientific independence and transcending subjects and institutions go hand in hand. "Technology must always be considered in conjunction with the people using it or being affected by it. That is why a diversity of perspectives and research approaches is a requirement", summarizes Fritz Schmöllebeck, Rector of the FH Technikum.
Designing, developing and educating together – the CTS projects
After it was created in 2019, the foundation of the center was established, and the first projects yielded a wealth of learnings. 2021 will see the expansion of existing structures and offers. Anna Franzkowiak, organisational director of the center, on the current progress: "All our partner institutions are collaborating intensively to develop, design and promote our center. We initiate numerous cooperative research activities. Furthermore, we support projects to improve higher education and are engaging in Third Mission activities. Doing so allows us to expand our impact radius, from technological development to social responsibility."
Networking creates added value
Heimo Sandtner, vice-rector at the FH Campus Wien, explains the motivation for founding the CTS: "Partnering with the CTS offers excellent opportunities for the FH Campus Wien to expand our strategic orientation of interdisciplinary research beyond institutional borders. Additionally, the equal collaboration between universities and applied universities strengthens and expands the existing network of academic institutions in research and education." Through those networking activities, a community develops around the CTS that combines different areas of society. Not only a diverse set of academic disciplines, but also the economy, representative bodies, NGOs and governmental administration are included.
As a result, the ongoing third-mission projects are contributing by reaching the Austrian people in their professional and private lives. "This is essential for us, because we work to translate the theoretical into the practical, and thus contribute to an equal, fair, technologically oriented, critical and – most importanly –happy society", explains Hilda Tellioğlu, the scientific director of the CTS. "We are convinced that topics in technology and society require a holistic perspective. Through this we are inviting curious, innovative, critical and create thinkers and visionaries of the future to be part of our journey", as the directors sum up the essence of the CTS.
A reflexive and critical view on socio-technological developments is a shared goal of all partner institutions. Going beyond blind techno-determinism or digital phobia, the CTS aims to allow interested researchers systematic insights into relevant disciplines. Doing so encourages further insight into one's own discipline and allows a close synergy between technological development and social responsibility.
DI Dr. Anna Franzkowiak
Center for Technology and Society
+43 1 58801 406617