Confronting the Second Deep Transition through the Historical Imagination
Author: Johan Schot
I have traveled many disciplines: from history of technology, science and technology studies, transport history, Dutch history, history of Europe, a bit of global history, sustainable development studies, to mobility studies. I also worked with policymakers and other stakeholders in fields such as innovation policy, technology assessment, and greening of industry. Yet my home is history, in particular history of technology, and the Society for the History of Technology provides the space where I can meet friends driven by a similar love for the history of technology. I feel therefore privileged and honored to be awarded the Leonardo da Vinci Medal. It feels like a recognition from my soul mates, which is important precisely because I so often travel far away from my roots, and then wonder whether historians of technology will still accept me when I come back.
Why is history of technology my home? The short answer is that I value the historical imagination beyond anything else. As I will argue below, it is this imagination that is crucially important for many actors in the world confronting the next Deep Transition. Here I am building on the notion of the Great Transformation, a phrase made famous by Karl Polanyi to describe the social and political changes that occurred with the rise of a market economy.1 History allows me to travel through time and space to new worlds and the enjoyment of often amazing experiences. There is no greater pleasure than sitting in an archive and opening up boxes which have not been touched for a long time, reading minutes, letters, and other documents, and then using these sources to construct an interpretation and narrative. However, for me, history is never only about recovering the past; it is a looking glass which makes us understand the present and the future. This is not the case only because the questions we ask are fueled by contemporary concerns, but also because through history we get a better understanding of these concerns and ultimately of ourselves. This is the first feature of the historical