Expectations, Action Orientation and Implications for Responsibility

Part of the Technikzukünfte, Wissenschaft und Gesellschaft / Futures of Technology, Science and Society book series (TEWG)


This chapter introduces the notion of expectations as the source of orientation in social relations. Expectations and their orientation function are discussed from the point of view of social theory, with selected examples from diverse sociological approaches. With no ambition to create a comprehensive picture, the chapter highlights the fact that all these approaches share the view that the stability and the inter-connectedness of expectations reduce the contingency of social interaction. This chapter moves on to consider how expectations have been conceptualized in the more specialised field of science and technology studies (STS) and how these future-oriented representations orient research and development activities, performing a coordination function of the relevant actors, setting constraints and enablers for their strategic activities and, ultimately, shaping the “possibility space” of technology development. The chapter then emphasises the novelty that STS introduces in dealing with the subject of expectations, when compared with mainstream social theory: materiality. In illustrating the place of expectations in action orientation, the chapter recognises however that action and the actor’s (anticipatory) knowledge is never immune from uncertainty. The final section of the chapter refers to trust as the element that allows us to bear the weight of uncertainty and permits us to orientate actions and establish relations when intractable contingency affects interaction.


Orientation Function Action Orientation Strategic Activity Abstract System Interaction Situation 
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Copyright information

© Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of PaduaPadovaItaly
  2. 2.University of TriesteTriesteItaly

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