A woman unscrews a laptop with a screwdriver.

Power to the people: making & politics at the Science Museum

by Cian O’Donovan and Adrian Smith The maker movement in the UK, and globally, has grown rapidly over recent years. Hundreds of maker spaces, equipped with 3D printers, laser cutters, design software, as well as old-fashioned hand tools, have popped up in cities, towns and on university campuses, potentially promising new forms of re-distributed and…

Close up image of circuit board lines.

What can we learn from digital transformations?

by Nathan Oxley and Adrian Smith With climate change, inequality, and injustice putting pressure on societies around the world, it often seems that incremental change towards sustainable development is not enough. A growing number and variety of alliances between organisations across civil society, business, politicians and states are calling for something more transformational. So are…

What we talk about when we talk about technology

In casual conversation ‘technology’ usually means something like a device, gadget or machine. Your smartphone for instance, or the satellite navigation system in your car; maybe the car itself, why not? But this conception of technology soon collapses if you subject it to a few quick tests. For example, try asking: Where is the technology?…

Six grassroots innovation movements, and why they matter

Innovation is increasingly said to be vital for responding to global challenges like sustainable development. Often overlooked, however, is the fact that networks of community groups, activists and researchers have been innovating grassroots solutions for social justice and environmental sustainability for decades. A new STEPS book, Grassroots Innovation Movements (Routledge, 2016) examines six such movements…

Beyond two-dimensional perspectives: Sustainable energy access as adaptation and mitigation?

Earlier this year, the Institute of Development Studies convened a one day meeting of scholars to discuss the emerging field of the politics of climate change adaptation. I study sustainable energy access, which doesn’t conventionally get counted as adaptation, so I wondered to what extent the politics of adaptation extends to the framing of sustainable…

Digital fabrication. Whose industrial revolution?

As the Society for Social Studies of Science & EASST build up to their annual meeting in Barcelona next month, the 4S blog is featuring preview pieces by participants. One is by Johan Söderberg, Maxigas, and Adrian Smith, with a taste of their paper about democratizing the tools of scientific-technical expertise.  The last wave of…

Civilising Hypocrisies and Fundamental Questions: on “emancipating transformations”

This week Manchester Tyndall Centre hosted a provocative and highly interesting seminar. Professor Andy Stirling, who spent the 80s in the trenches for Greenpeace, had schlepped up to deliver a seminar on “Emancipating Transformations.” What they? Read on for an (almost) blow by blow account. [My multiple two centses are in square brackets like these.]

How can African countries really provide sustainable energy for poor people?

Last month, delegates drawn from across the world gathered at the UNEP headquarters in Nairobi for the second session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-2) to discuss the theme ‘Delivering on the environmental dimension of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’. I was privileged to be a panelist at a side event on ‘Sustainable…

Makerspaces: Creating inclusive spaces for sustainable innovations

Making stuff is all the rage these days. But how does sustainable development fit into this enthusiasm? The White House is celebrating a Week of Making from June 16-23 2016 after hosting its first Maker Faire in 2014 to spark a “grassroots renaissance in American making and manufacturing”. The hope is that by exposing people…

Four Scenarios of future urban E-mobility in China

What will it be like to live in Chinese cities as e-mobility takes hold? This is the question that has been investigated by a team at CeMoRe, Lancaster University and the Graduate School at Shenzhen, Tsinghua University, since 2013 in a major project funded by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). With China…