Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Knowledge Systems for Material Sustainability
by Kokai, Akos, Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley, 2020, 162; 27962089
Abstract (Summary)

Making systems of production sustainable will require deep technological and societal change. This dissertation explores several facets of the relationships between scientific knowledge, society, and “green design”—a set of approaches for eliminating harmful chemical substances from material technologies. This is an interdisciplinary investigation based in science and technology studies (STS), drawing from scholarship in the sociology of knowledge and resource management, information studies, and design studies.

An overarching challenge in green design is effectively cultivating and mobilizing scientific knowledge to enable technical change. This dissertation asks what systems could produce, test, verify, and organize scientific knowledge in ways that better meet the needs of a growing community of green design practitioners, advocates, and decision-makers. Scientific communities are increasingly turning to systems of shared and collectively governed knowledge resources—or knowledge commons. Using in-depth case studies I explore emerging knowledge commons in the domain of chemicals and environmental health. I investigate how a commons can be formed and sustained in this complex and politically contested arena; and whether (or how) such a commons can function as a stable site for producing “socially robust knowledge”—knowledge that has been tested and accepted as valid by a wide range of stakeholders.

At the same time, the politics of green design are structured by dominant systems of knowledge and technological development, in which civil society is largely oblivious to the risks of material design choices and unable to actively participate in shaping alternatives. With a case study of the building sector, I examine how mobilizing science to inform green design necessarily involves making political and value-laden choices, even though these are rarely debated as such. Extending my analysis to the case of nanotechnology, I argue that green design should become more participatory—providing pathways for society to consciously shape material technologies for sustainability.

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Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Iles, Alastair
Commitee: Rosen, Christine, Morello-Frosch, Rachel, Schwarzman, Megan
School: University of California, Berkeley
Department: Environmental Science, Policy, & Management
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 82/4(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Environmental Studies, Information science, Sociology
Keywords: Design, Environmental health, Green chemistry, Information infrastructure, Knowledge commons, Science & technology studies
Publication Number: 27962089
ISBN: 9798678169891
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