Making sense of changing relationships between technology, security and society in Europe

Europe of Knowledge |

Workshop participants

How do new technological developments influence security in Europe? What role do drones, artificial intelligence and social media play in contemporary European society and security? And what to expect from recent trends in European Union’s (EU) security policy such as plans to fund defence research? These were some of the questions addressed at the workshop ‘Science and Technology Studies and the study of Europe’ that took place at University of Bath, UK on 6-7 November 2018.


This workshop was organized by the ‘INTERSECT: Technology-Security-Society Interplays in Europe’ research network that promotes academic research and public debate in this novel area on the interplays between technological developments, security practices, and societal changes in Europe. Its focus includes topics such as cybersecurity, surveillance, counter-terrorism and dual-use research and development. Launched in 2017, INTERSECT is one of research networks supported by UACES – The academic association for contemporary European Studies. The workshop was organized in cooperation with the Nordic Centre of Excellence for Security and Technologies and Societal Values (NordSTEVA). This was the second INTERSECT workshop following ‘Rethinking the Technology – Security Nexus in Europe’ last year in Malmö, Sweden.


The programme of this thought-provoking two-day workshop in Bath included a range of interrelated theoretical and empirical topics that explored changing technology and security interplay in Europe by combining insights from Science and Technology Studies (STS), European Studies, International Relations as well as other disciplines and research fields. These were presented and discussed by some 20 researchers from all over Europe in three sessions, a keynote address and a concluding roundtable.


In the first session, Derek Bolton discussed information warfare in the modern age, while Tom Hobson suggested to use STS concepts of co-production and socio-technical imaginaries to think more critically about relationship between technology and warfare. In light of EU’s recent developments of setting up defence research programme, Jocelyn Mawdsley asked some timely questions about what can be expected from EU defence research funding and what can be learnt from the United States in this respect.

Keynote by Professor Mireille Hildebrandt

In the second session, Brett Edwards presented his forthcoming book ‘Insecurity and Emerging Biotechnology. Governing Misuse Potential’ discussing ethical considerations and security dilemmas related to emerging technologies. Chantal Lavallée explored the EU’s support for the development of drone sector, while Raluca Csernatoni focused on power dynamics in another ‘hot’ dual use technology field, namely, Artificial Intelligence. In her broad-ranging keynote ‘Law, Science, Technology and Security (LSTS) Studies: Legal Protection by Design’, Professor Mireille Hildebrandt addressed numerous conceptual and empirical questions emphasizing the need to scrutinise security technologies and to involve those who will suffer the consequences.


In the third and final session, Inga Ulnicane presented on responsible dual use research and changing research funding landscape in the EU that involves support for civilian, dual-use and since recently also defence research. Two final presentations in the workshop showcased research from the European Research Council funded project ‘FOLLOW – Following the Money from Transaction to Trial’. Tasniem Anwar demonstrated how social media activities such as WhatsApp messages have become essential legal evidence in terrorism financing court cases. Her colleague Esmé Bosma explained her research on how private banks use transaction monitoring system to counter terrorism financing.

Inga Ulnicane talking about responsible dual use in the European Union

In the final workshop roundtable, André Barrinha, Kristofer Lidén, Karen Lund Petersen and Bruno Oliveira Martins took stock of and identified future directions in this highly interesting and relevant research and policy area. One of the themes that emerged was the importance of bringing in public in anticipating and evaluating future technologies, their ethical and legal aspects as well as their potential uses in security field. That would democratize and make the process of developing and applying security technologies more transparent. A number of exciting topics and questions for future research and debate were outlined including the need to overcome gendered nature of security and technology fields, to go beyond artificial distinction between politics and economics of technologies in international relations and to address dilemmas such as security versus academic freedom.