Knowledge ROOTS: Innovation, Cognition, and Technology

Knowledge production is a pivotal driving force of the ‘human condition’. It stimulates social, cultural, and economic changes. The accelerated expansion of scientific, technical, and other forms of knowledge seems to alter societies and environments at ever-shorter intervals and at an ever-higher rate. Shared knowledge connects humans: knowledge production, dispersal, and acceptance shapes connectivity throughout history. Knowledge ROOTS applies the notion of knowledge not only as an accumulation of known facts or scattered information, but also as the connection between and among mental concepts, specific skills, and social practices. Technology is therefore a sub-concept of knowledge, as it comprises the techniques to produce or generate specific objects, contexts, and structures, whereas innovation represents novel solutions to challenges. Moreover, there are also cases of knowledge control, where knowledge, like other resources, is withheld and controlled by specific groups within society.

Current research often studies knowledge production, innovation, and technology independently of each other. The aim of Knowledge ROOTS is to connect different forms of knowledge through three main axes:

  1. One axis, episteme – i.e. knowledge in the broader sense – comprises both mental concepts (such as worldviews, religious ideas, cosmological models, and political concepts), as well as disposable facts, (basic subsistence strategies, astronomical evidence, and material properties).
  2. A second axis, techne, concerns technology: tools, skills, and procedures (including control and management of energy, arable farming, crafts, or literacy). Technology is employed to produce artefacts and goods, and to provide services (e.g. medicine, education, and military).
  3. A third axis comprises praxis in the sense of structured behaviour (e.g. customs, ritual practices, and habits).

In the research of the subcluster, each of these axes is associated with specific aims, theoretical analyses, methods, and archives. Our overarching motive is to understand how episteme, techne, and praxis connect in different natural, social, and cultural domains. Driving research questions are: which kind of knowledge is produced in which way, where and when? To what extent is knowledge production connected to social conditions and/or individual genius? Which forms of knowledge have which kind of impact on social and/or environmental conditions? Which factors favour the spread of knowledge, which ones do not? In which way do new contexts transform knowledge?



Fieldwork + Activities


Participating Institutions