Historical Social Research

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Michael Hutter, Hubert Knoblauch, Werner Rammert & Arnold Windeler: Innovation Society Today. The Reflexive Creation of Novelty [Abstract]

While innovation has shaped modern society from its very inception, it is currently gaining new dimensions: Innovation is becoming increasingly reflexive, heterogeneously distributed, and ubiquitous. Reflexivity implies more than the intentional transformation of routine actions; it also refers to the transformation of social practices based on continuously (re-)produced knowledge about innovation. Thus, innovation itself becomes the aim and purpose of social activities: as the meaning and motif of (what we will refer to as the “semantics” of novelty), as a component of practical routines (the “pragmatics” of creative action), and, finally, as part of systematically (re-)produced social structures of generating novelty (the “grammar” of innovation regimes). Heterogeneous distribution refers to the observed shift from the individual entrepreneur to networks of innovation involving divergent actors. Ubiquity indicates the current expansion of innovation beyond the traditional spheres of science and economy and its generalization into an imperative for social action. This article presents a research framework that addresses the following key questions: How is novelty created reflexively, where can this process be observed, and which actors are driving it? By pursuing an extended notion of innovation, the framework promotes a sophisticated, sociological lens which is more encompassing than conventional economic perspectives. Our goal is to develop a more in-depth and empirically founded understanding of the meaning of innovation in contemporary society and the social processes it involves.

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