Rethinking discontinuation dynamics: lessons from the Diesel automobile industry
“We will set out an end date after which all cars will have to be emissions free”, that is how the European Commission President von der Leyen addressed the issue of transport and climate in 2021, while unveiling the new EU climate package. Fighting combustion engine automobiles is one of a series of ongoing - or presumably concluded - discontinuation processes that involve e.g. coal and nuclear plants, chlorofluorocarbons, and micro plastics. In keeping up with these policy discussions, scholarly interest in discontinuation dynamics has grown considerably, focusing on how to conceptualize and carry out processes for transiting away from unwanted socio-technical systems, towards more sustainable and just futures.
Transitions Studies scholars have produced significant insights into these dynamics, especially focusing on which combination of exogenous and endogenous pressures might lead to the disappearance of sociotechnical systems. However, these scholars typically approach discontinuation as a distinct and final phase of an innovation pathway, drawing a sharp distinction between dynamics of introduction, stability, and discontinuation of socio-technical systems, and focusing on the replacement of existing technologies with novel ones. During this talk, I will propose a somehow different way of understanding discontinuation processes, by focusing on the historical case study of the Diesel engine automobiles in Europe.
Stefania Sardo is a postdoctoral researcher at the TUM School of Social Sciences and Technology. Her current research sits at the crossroad between Science and Technology Studies, Transition Studies, and Innovation Studies. In particular, she is interested in discontinuation dynamics, socio-technical transitions, as well as governance of science and innovation. Stefania holds a PhD in Innovation and Entrepreneurship from BI Norwegian Business School. Her PhD dissertation focused on the innovation dynamics characterizing apparently mature and static socio-technical systems.