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First wave of Deep Transitions Research Unveiled in New Podcast Series

The Deep Transitions workshop, held at the start of the year at the University of Sussex Conference Centre on January 15-17,  had one crucial difference from the usual. Alongside project updates and writing sessions across the three days, we also took our researchers into the Foley sound studio in Silverstone to record a podcast series. With the help of Communications Manager Geraldine Bloomfield, sound engineer Ann Charles, and the direction of Sun City Productions’ Jeek ten Velden, they aimed to to bring their topics to life for a non-academic audience.  

 Inside Foley Studio

Over the course of the interviews, the researchers discussed a wide variety of topics. Phil Johnstone and Caitriona McLeish introduced their work on the lasting effects of the World Wars on our contemporary energy systems, and the intense mobilising effect total war had on society. Frederique Bone and Daniele Rotolo also introduced their innovative project text mining 150 years of New York Times and American Scientific publications. Drawing heavily from the methodology and raw computing power offered by bibliometric studies, their research intends to measure the rapid technological developments seen across the 19th and 20th centuries. You will be able to hear and read more about the projects soon on the upcoming Deep Transitions website.

Sound Studio

The overarching theme of these discussions was Deep Transitions. Beginning in 2017, the project is composed of a team of researchers working across Europe and led by Professor Johan Schot from the University of Utrecht. The Deep Transitions framework (outlined here in an early working paper)  analyses the transition from the 1770s to modern industrialised society through five “surges of development”, and the associated seismic changes undergone by global sociotechnical systems. Alongside detailed study of these sociotechnical systems, the project assesses the rules and meta-rules underlying these systems.

The core principle of the project is that a second Deep Transition is necessary; our contemporary social, economic and political structures, based on extractive, exploitative practices rooted in the industrial past, must undergo a second Deep Transition in order to achieve necessary sustainable practices on a global scale. The project is a sister project to the Transformative Innovation Policy Consortium, also led by Johan Schot, which shares its outlook on sustainability and draws on its understanding of the past to enable contemporary transformative change.

Deep Transitions

The workshop ended with a packed seminar in the Jubilee Building. Johan Schot and the researchers introduced their research to the broader SPRU community and underwent a detailed discussion on the academic and practical value of the research. A video of the seminar is available here.

The project website will launch later this month, and host the podcast series and their associated working papers, along with updates on projects and events. Follow @DTransitions2 on Twitter for updates in the interim.

Another workshop will be held 18-20 of May, hosted by the Utrecht University Centre for Global Challenges. Beyond this, for the rest of 2020, the focus will be on synthesising the novel insights derived from the research so far. Johan Schot and Bipashyee Ghosh will publish Advanced Introduction to Sustainability Transitions next year, an introductory book integrating the theories and case studies of Deep Transitions. An edited volume on the research conducted within Deep Transitions is also planned for 2021.


Deep Transitions is a project funded by Baillie Gifford. One of our upcoming podcasts is a conversation between Johan Schot and James Anderson, a fund manager with the firm, where they discuss his interest in the research subject and its potential synergies with the investment banking industry.

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By: Francisco Dominguez
Last updated: Thursday, 20 February 2020

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