Knowledge Society Debates

By JULIA DAY, STEPS Centre member

In India, as in Europe, visions of a knowledge society have brought science, technology and innovation to the forefront of politics, democracy and public life. As India positions itself in global high-technology markets and European governments attempt to tame their sceptical public, knowledge society and knowledge economy have become buzzwords in public policy.

But what is a knowledge society? Whose knowledge counts? And how should a knowledge society address risk and uncertainty? These are some of the questions being addressed at a series of debates the STEPS Centre has organised across India – in Hyderabad, Bangalore and Delhi.

“Following the work of the National Knowledge Commission India and Knowledge Society report in Europe, there is much to be learned,” said The Times of India, in its report about the events. “Scientists will explore what is common between European and Indian visions of a knowledge society and whether these form a basis for an alternative vision of the global future to that of a borderless market.”

The Hindu reported on the Bangalore debate, where Sheila Jasanoff, Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Studies, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, US, asked: “The 21st century has brought with it the prefix “mass”, so you have mass communication, mass transport, mass entertainment and not least mass destruction. But has this “massification” necessarily been inclusive?”

Akhila Seetharaman of Time Out Bangalore spoke to Shiv Visvanathan, who will led the responses at the city’s debate. “We need to ask how innovation in Bangalore affects Karnataka, how the body of scientific knowledge in the English language relates to science in Kannada,” said Visvanathan, “and apart from building advanced science centres, whether we are concerned at all with bringing science to schools and colleges.”

Find out more about the Knowledge Society debates.