X-Innovation: Re-Inventing Innovation Again and Again
Gerald Gaglio, Université Nice Sophia Antipolis (France)
Benoît Godin, INRS, Montreal (Canada)Sebastian Pfotenhauer, Technische Universität München (Germany)
Innovation is an old word, of Greek origin, that came into the Latin vocabulary in the early Middle Age and into our everyday vocabulary with the Reformation. However, it is only during the second half of the twentieth century that innovation became a fashionable concept and turned into a buzzword. It gave rise to a plethora of terms like technological innovation, organizational innovation, industrial innovation and, more recently, social innovation, open innovation, sustainable innovation, responsible innovation. We may call these terms X-innovation.
In this way, X-innovation is the latest step to give sense to a century-old process of enlargement of the concept of innovation. Over the last five centuries, innovation enlarged its meaning from the religious to the political to the social to the economical. X-innovation is the more recent such enlargement. It Is the continuation, under new terms, of the contestation of technological innovation as the dominant discourse of the twentieth century.
How can we make sense of this semantic extension? Why do these terms come into being? What drives people to coin new terms? What effects do the terms have on thought, on culture and scholarship and on policy and politics? Which forms of contestation and appropriation ensue around certain X-innovations? How do they shape, and are shaped by, broader social trends? How to they relate to questions of power and inclusion?
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Statement of Aims
The International Journal Novation – Critical Studies of Innovation is underway, following a slow but steady route to contribute to the rethinking and debunking of innovation narratives in STS (Science, Technology and Society) and STI (Science, Technology, and Innovation). After a first call that was launched last April 2017, together with Godin and Vinck’s recent book (2017) – which is a perfect case of young researchers as contributors – we are preparing the first Issue on “X-innovation: Re-inventing Innovation Again and Again” (with B. Godin, G. Gaglio and S. Pfotenhauer as editors).
Putting together several scholars across at least three continents, NOvation is in itself proof of this urge to open the field of innovation studies as well as other and every disciplinary areas engaged in this discussion, not just internationalizing their practices but make them to contribute to a wider kind of inter and cross-disciplinary problems and interpretations – encouraging co-authorship between discipline or special issues with debates between disciplines is something that new generations have been bold and this Editorial Board is nurturing.
We should, in fact, emphasize that there is now a younger generation of researchers, more open to our view than the mainstream researchers and scholars are, frequently entrenched as the latter are in University chairs or established research institutions, whose agendas tend to be shaped according to policy agendas. Otherwise, there are indeed many scholars who do not recognize themselves in that normative orientation, at the same time being critical of the current system of bibliometric validation and ready to publish in this journal.
There is a need to look critically at studies of innovation presented as the unavoidable path to scholars and experts and get better pictures of innovation than the one this field has been used to. The journal questions the current narratives of innovation and offers a forum to discuss some different interpretations of innovation, not just its virtues but also its implications.
The following topics comprehend this journal scopus of interests and critical approaches:
- Deconstructing theories and models of innovation;
- Deconstructing the discourses proposing, idealizing and selling them;
- Confronting diverse ontologies of policy and development with rational innovation models and other views of officials and development agencies;
- Not just deconstructing, but also constructing different models and proposing alternative narratives.
In addition, the areas that NOvation calls to collaborate represent not just a niche topic, but an interdisciplinary field with many disciplinary and thematic affiliations – Economics and sociology of innovation, History of Science and Technology, Conceptual history, Intellectual history, Public Policy, Institutional History, etc. –, with a wide scope of methodological possibilities:
- Critical analyses: from and on studies of innovation, being those approaches more disciplinary or interdisciplinary in nature;
- Discourse analysis: deconstructing actors’ rhetoric, policy-makers’ frameworks and scholars’ theories and argumentation;
- Intellectual history: documenting scholars’ theories and trajectories;
- Conceptual accounts: studying the concepts used in the field, the traveling of concepts among fields (academic and public) and their transformation into catchwords;
- Case studies: helping to understand and mapping the uses of innovation and to rethink current narratives;
One thing that we find most important to not lose sight of is that ‘NOvation’ modus operandi is different than mainstream journals, i.e., not too obsessed with fashionable international credentials, like REF-Research Excellence Framework or other criteria that make rankings and so on – impact factors, etc. Researchers, in fact, are also looking for alternative indicators giving a better account of the diversity of access and appropriation of knowledge than the only citation and impact factors in a mainstream journal. In addition, the current context of (too) much studies of innovation, fighting against the pro-innovation is attractive to many researchers.
The critical study of innovation is important because innovation as a word is everywhere in contemporary societies. Innovation is on the political discourses, on cultural and knowledge debates, as well as in the political economy of nowadays global economics. It is not for the sake of being against, but to make up for the lack of empirical basis that the pro-innovation bias has. We are indeed interested in understand "why innovation is (un) important’ in connection to other categories of human agency contributing to progress”, or putting in other words: understand ‘why, where and when’ innovation could be– or not be– important to progress and development of human endeavor in different contexts and regions.
Tiago Brandão (Managing Editor)