Terminating Technology: How to recover what worked better in the past and go away from what doesn’t work now?

  • Zahar Coretchii (Speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentation / Performance / SpeechesTalk or presentation - at conferenceAcademic


Technological innovation is typically seen as something that adds, grows, provides value, destroys old and replaces it with new. While most attention is given to attempts to foster new technologies, the phenomenon of technology fading away is important as well. Sometimes the termination of technologies has been intentional, as was in the cases of technologies that have been banned in the past for reasons of ‘responsibility’, such as chemical weapons, DDT, carbon tetrachloride, gene modification, or, more recently, incandescent lighting. Terminating technology clearly is a process of active resistance and counter-resistance, with complex dynamics and multifaceted societal effects.
In this paper I review findings, concepts and theories from various disciplines studying the histories of deliberately terminating technologies. Discussions of terminating technologies under different labels (e.g. discontinuation, uninvention, destabilisation) can be found primarily in innovation studies and STS, but also in policy and organisational studies. The review confirms that the complex phenomenon of termination of technologies has not been the focus of nearly as much scientific scrutiny as creation. I will highlight the theories of uninvention, of socio-technical transitions and of governance of discontinuation, which differ in their take on the character of termination (intentional and non-intentional), the agent(s) involved (coordinating and non-coordinating) and the focus (governance process and technology). I will conclude the paper with a discussion on whether and how technology can be “removed” from society, for reasons of responsibility or otherwise, and what happens when this is attempted.
Period27 Jun 2018
Event title10th Annual S.NET Meeting
Event typeConference
LocationMaastricht, NetherlandsShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • technological trajectories
  • innovation policy
  • sustainability transitions