4.1.4 National and cultural variations in assessment (and evaluation)
A comparative analysis of national and pan-national approaches to technology assessment exposes two related issues that evaluators should be aware of, particularly where there may be an international dimension to their work.
Firstly, ‘... that each country has generated its own particular combination of practical and theoretical trajectories’ (Jamison and Baark, 1990, p. 112). Adopters of a ‘theoretical trajectory’ seek to maintain an objective, politically neutral position that incorporates open and ongoing discussion of technological options. Meanwhile the ‘practical position’ is usually partisan, may well be subjective in nature and is usually ‘... carried out by social actors seeking to influence and control the course of technological development’ (ibid, p. 112).
From my own involvement in pan-European assessment and evaluative research (through the EC’s Cooperation in Science and Technology programme) I would conclude that the UK Government is less inclined to the theoretical position than other European governments. Of course, others may disagree. What is significant for evaluators, of course, is recognition of where and when which position (or ‘mode’, as Jamison and Baark would say) might apply because this insight could be valuable, for example, when seeking opportunities for work or funding. Preferences for particular modes of technology assessment (and evaluation) is a subject I return to again later in the unit.
The second, related issue corresponds with the point I made above concerning the perceptions and beliefs about technology that exist across societies, and thus within any context, be that international, national or at the level of organisations and localities. It is that:
Because of the different ways in which technology has been perceived, assessment has been provided with different goals, methods and organisational frameworks. The social and political role of technology assessment has varied from context to context, and has developed along different lines depending on national, institutional and political traditions, as well as on differing cultural images or views of technology.
Activity 10 Analysing modes of technology assessment
Identify an example of technology assessment which conforms to each of Jamison’s and Baark’s assessment trajectories (i.e. practical or theoretical). You are therefore looking for two examples.
Your examples can be drawn from anywhere in the world and apply to any type of technology, or technology-based project or programme, but must be from a publicly available source, such as the POST and EPTA websites, or academic journals, trade and specialist publications, etc.,
Consider your findings, how do they conforms to each of Jamison’s and Baark’s assessment trajectories, do you have least three factors that support your argument.