International Center for Ethics in the Sciences and Humanities (IZEW)

Melike Şahinol


Strategies and dynamics in the neuroscientific and neurotechnical innovation process

Background: Neuroscientific and neurotechnological innovations are intervening so fundamentally in our lives, that they require besides technological and medical scientific approaches also (medical)ethical and social scientific approaches. These innovations raise elementary questions about the idea of man respectively the idea of patient. Actions of patients with certain diseases are strongly influenced by medical technology. Neuroscience and neurotechnology relate directly to the acting of human, especially the autonomy of patients, their ability to act and their ability to communicate. Therefore these innovations cause a sociological significance. As a result, the conditions of neurotechnologies, the role and "properties" (including socio-technical distributed actions) of patients, which only survive by medical technologies, have to be sociologically described and analyzed.
The aim of the dissertation project is to analyze the processes and practices in the neurosciences and the conditions that led to the development of neurotechnologies.
Of particular importance is the question of the role of ethics, both formal (ethics as moral philosophy) and the personal (in the sense of morality), how ethics is adapted in the development of such technologies, and how ethics itself models and addresses such diseases.

Relevant analysis and methodology: As part of this thesis, I use the Grounded Theory (Anselm Strauss) as research method. As a complementary method I use the "focused ethnography" of Knoblauch (2001, and Schnettler/ Knoblauch: 2009) within a laboratory study (see Latour and Woolgar 1979, Knorr Cetina 1984).
Based on the
Grounded Theory Approach, on the basis of two levels of analysis, I will develop a theory of the neuroscientific and technical innovation process.
Prospects: Based on document analysis, laboratory observation, self-experiments with different neuro techniques and interviews with several neuroscientists, a neurosurgeons, physiotherapists and patients, I argue that the development of Brain Computer Interfaces and the patient care are distinguished by distributed ethics between different epistemic cultures. If we understand ethics as technology itself, we can see that ethics produce new action, insights, motivations, and dilemmas during the innovation process.

As a result of this work, we have to rethink ethics in the innovation process, also to gain (bio)ethical action options for a “better” treatment of chronic stroke for example, or to optimize the innovation process of medical technology and treatment.



Summer term 2009: The sociological view of technology: about the mechanization of society, about cyborgs and other sociotechnical constructs

Lectures / Presentation

Development of neurotechnical treatment with brain machine interfaces in chronic stroke”, Neurosociety conference 7-8 December 2010: What is it with the brain these days? Oxford's Saïd Business School in cooperation with the Institute for Science, Innovation and Society (InSIS) and the European Neuroscience and Society Network (ENSN), Oxford (UK), 07.12.2010

Handlungsstrategien und Dynamiken im neurowissenschaftlichen und –technologischen Innovationsprozess“, Der Systemblick auf Innovation – Technikfolgenabschätzung in der Technikgestaltung, NTA4 - Vierte Konferenz des „Netzwerks TA“, Berlin, 26.11.2010

Practical ethics in neuro scientific/ technological research – brain machine interfaces and patient care”, 4S Annual Meeting 2010 - Society for Social Studies of Science, Tokyo/ Japan, 26.08.2010

Neuro-Techno-Scientific Imaginaries?”, Science, Technology and Society Fellows Meeting, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University (Cambridge /MA), 10.11.2009


Tagungsbericht: „Geschichte(n) der Robotik“ Jahrestagung der Gesellschaft für Technikgeschichte, Offenbach, 22. - 24. Mai 2009. In: Technikgeschichte, 77, 2010, Nr. 1. Together with Petersen, Sonja. Online Publikation in: H-Soz-u-Kult, 05.08.2009 ( and

Conference Report "History of Robotics", Annual Meeting of the German Society for the History of Technology (GTG) May 2009. In: Newsletter of the International Committee for the History of Technology ICOHTEC, No. 53, August 2009. Together with Petersen, Sonja.

Şahinol, Melike (2008): Groß-sozio-technische Systeme im Mikro-Makro-Modell: Technikgenese in sozialen Netzwerken und die Interdependenzen von Akteursstrategien und Technikentwicklung am Beispiel des inHaus Duisburg. In: Compagna, Diego/ Shire, Karen (2008) (Hrsg.): Working Papers kultur- und techniksoziologische Studien, No. 3/2008

Şahinol, Melike (2007): Soziale Netzwerke und Technische Innovationen. Akteursstrategien zwischen Markt und Technikgenese am Beispiel des inHaus’. In: Compagna, Diego (Hrsg.): Soziotechnische Aspekte von Teleheimarbeit. Lohmar-Köln: Eul-Verlag, S. 163-191


Fall 2009 Fellow at the Program "Science, Technology and Society", Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University (Cambridge, MA).
Since july 2008 Fellow at the PhD Project
"TRANSDISS - Disziplinäre Forschung in der Transdisziplinarität. Dissertationen in der Technikfolgenabschätzung" funded by Federal Ministry of Education Research.

Since April 2008 Fellow at the postgraduate program of bioethics, IZEW, Eberhard Karls University of Tuebingen.
October 2007 – March 2008: Research Assistant to Prof. Dr. Manfred Max Bergman Institute of Sociology, Chair of Methodology and Political Sociology, University of Basel (Switzerland).

September 2006 – July 2007: Student and Research Assistant to Visitingprofessor Dr. Jutta Weber, Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies, University of Duisburg-Essen.
Winter term 2001/02 – winter term 2006/07: Social Sciences with the main focus on Sociology, minor Political Sciences and Psychology at the University of Duisburg-Essen, MA thesis on the topic of “Sociology of Innovation: Shaping of Technology using the example of Smart Homes“, within the scope of the research subproject “Sociological Technology Studies: Intelligent Home Research“, funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Supervisors: Prof. Karen Shire, Dipl. Soz. Diego Compagna


E-Mail: melike.sahinol[at]