Narrating Europe – Johan Schot

2765.itemThe interview with Johan Schot, professor of History of Technology & Sustainability Transition Studies at the University of Sussex, has been conducted by Marc Steffen from the Master in European Contemporary History.

Questions about the article ‘Experts and European transport integration, 1945-1985’

If the transport experts formed a stale policy network and an epistemic community on an intereuropean/international level, why do they disagree on the establishment of a supranational transport authority (e.g. European High Authority for transport)? Does this make sense?

They disagree because it goes against their philosophy on how to manage international relations. supranationality involves the foreign office, since it is based on transfering rights. it involves treaties and conventions. They preferred a policy behind closed doors without any involvement of the foreign office. This allowed them to stay in control of the international negotiations. They also opposed the political project of European integration behind it, since they believed that the supporters of this political project were not really interested in the transport sector and its problems. They wanted to use the sector as a stepping stone for a larger political objective.

For what reasons has the Directorate-General for Transport failed? Who was/is responsible for the ‘(…) saddest chapter in the history of European integration (…)’ (( SCHOT, Johan/ SCHIPPER, Frank, Experts and European transport integration, 1945-1958. In: Journal of European Public Policy 2011 (18/2), P. 274-293. ))? What roles do the transport experts play?

Because all the plans for the creation of a common transport market failed. The essence was that nation states would give power for infrastructure decisions, decisions on possibility for truckers to operate on other countries etc. to the EEC. Experts did not collaborate with the EEC. Instead they continued working within their own organizations. 

Questions about the article ‘Inventing Europe: Technology and the Hidden Integration of Europe’

Why do we speak about a ‘Hidden Integration of Europe’? Doesn’t this imply a voluntary act of hiding something? Why do you have to make it visible again?

It is hidden, because it was the strategy of experts to work behind closed doors without any public involvement. It is also hidden, because this dimension is neglected in the European integration literature. I want to make it visible, because it was important and explains why the EU has a technocratic core.
Why do you think hasn’t the European integration, which, according to your article, ‘(…) depended on and was shaped by material networks, technical systems, and the circulation of knowledge and artifacts (…) (( J. MISA, Thomas/ SCHOT, Johan, Inventing Europe: Technology and the Hidden Integration of Europe. In: History and Technology 2005 (21/1), P. 1-19. ))’ been addressed until now in the existing literature on European integration?

Because historians tends to overlook the role of technology. They focus on other factors. secondly this is consider an area of low politics, not very important. The real work is done by politicians, not by experts. Archival research is also difficult and boring, since it involves delving into working committees. 

In your article you mention the idea of a co-construction of technology and Europe. In what sense do theses concepts relate to each other? Would the one exist, without the other?

Both exist without each other. Yet the argument is that Europe became an important property of transnational technology development, e.g. knowledge networks, standards, infrastructures, products. And because these networks, standards etc. emerged and got European features, they began influencing technological choices and strategies.

In how far does the technological integration of Europe influence the so-called ‘cultural fail of Europe’ or/and the construction of a ‘Fortress Europe’?

It is at the core of the technocratic nature of the integration process. European integration started with borrowing technocratic methods from the past. It also influenced the construction of the Fortress through inclusion and exclusion of certain people, knowledges, places etc. 

Linking, circulation and appropriation. How do these concepts fit into the ‘Hidden Integration of Europe’ and why are they so important for your own concept of the European Integration?

Knowledge, innovation, technology starts local and then circulates. This circulation creates a large space. The circulating knowledge often does not fully fit every context, hence often needs appropriation. The hidden integration is built through linking of infrastructures and circulation and appropriations of knowledge, products, skills etc.

In how far can we characterize the Cold War as a catalyst of a technological European integration?

We certainly can to some extent. It helped integrating Western Europe, but it also created a divide between East and West.

In your opinion, how do European citizens engage with Europe through the construction and use of technologies?

As a consumer, as a knowledge worker, as a student, as a tourist etc. 
Today, would you give the article the same title as you did during the time of its composition? If yes/no, why?

Yes, because the notion of hidden integration is a powerful one.
Other questions concerning your researches

What about the project on the World Wide Web, called ‘Transnational Infrastructures and the Rise of Contemporary Europe’ (( SCHOT, Johan [i.a.], Transnational Infrastructures and the Rise of Contemporary Europe. Online: (Visited: 29.03.14). ))? Is it down?

The project is completed, the website is still on the web but not maintained anymore.

Are there other projects or platforms on the World Wide Web, which you use as working media? What do you think about Twitter and other social media as a platform, which can be used to spread scientific research results? (See @RealTimeWW1 on Twitter)

I think they can be used to influence policy. Academics are often not on Twitter.

Since the 1st January 2014 you have been working as the Director of the program ‘Science and Technology Policy Research’ at the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom. What are your plans as the new Director of this program? On what subject will you focus yourself and in what sense do theses researches contribute to the ‘Hidden Integration of Europe’ or the role of technology played in the process of European Integration?

I am finishing Making Europe book series, including a book by myself and Wolfram Kaiser (entitled Writing the Rules for Europe). In addition I am working on a European Digital Museum for Science and Technology. This will take another 2-3 years including all the articles and presentations that will follow.

Are your current studies influenced by the recent Anti-Europeanism (public opinion, political parties, etc.), regarding the global financial and economic crisis? If yes/no, why?

They make some of my arguments more political salient, but they can also be captured by this criticism since I disclose the technocratic nature of much of the European decision-making.

Are the engineers still playing such an important role in the process of a European integration or are they replaced by another group of people nowadays ((SCHOT, Johan, Inventing Europe by Johan Schot. Online: (Visited 29.03.14).)) ?

This process continues. 

How would you define the following expressions: ‘Europe’, ‘European integration’ and ‘Technology’?

Europe is an actor category, it means different things to different people. European integration is a similar category, but it also refers of course to a political project which started after WW II; technology is a socio-technical configuration that works. These temrs cannot be defined so easily, this needs a long essay and a lot of context.

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