— S e b l o g g i n g

On proactive social science

“Proactively helping to shape the third digital revolution will require nothing less than a culture change in the social sciences. The dominant “positive” social science approach, which is one of path observation, will need to expand to include a much more extensive application of the “normative” approach. Positive social science focuses on explaining what has happened. A normative approach includes views on what should happen. It still must be grounded in evidence, including a clear understanding of the underlying science and the technology. By itself, normative work is often disparaged as not being science—though there are dedicated subcultures committed to what is variously termed action research, participant observation, and similar approaches. It is possible, indeed essential, to combine the positive and normative approaches by embracing and advancing bold, evidence-based analysis of accelerating technological developments and desired transformations.

The third digital revolution provides social science with a rare opportunity to engage with emerging new technologies while they are still in formation. It is a chance to look around the corner into the future implications across the many fields and disciplines—economics, sociology, political science, management science, industrial relations, and others. This will require the social sciences to shift into a more proactive stance to become path creators, not just path observers.”

Gershenfeld, N., Gershenfeld, A., & Cutcher-Gershenfeld, J. (2017). Designing Reality. New York, Basic Books.

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