Sociologia Ruralis Virtual Special Issue: Exploring social realities in the quest for responsible digital agri-‘cultures’
- Simon Fielke
- Kelly Bronson
- Michael Carolan
This editorial introduces a special issue (SI) concerning quests for responsible digital agri‐food innovation. We present our interpretations of the concepts of responsible innovation and digital agri‐food innovation and show why they can and have been productively interrelated with social science theories and methods. First, each of the articles in this SI is briefly introduced and synthesised around three themes: (1) the need for a critique of digital ‘solutionism’ in current interdisciplinary research, development and innovation settings; (2) that social science contributes value via the ideas it brings to life to challenge dominant power dynamics and (3) that social scientific imagination and practice is a valuable long‐term investment to both mitigate risk but also embrace socioenvironmental opportunities as we face ongoing sustainability crises into the future. Second, we identify future research considerations arising within the field, sitting at the intersection of social science and agricultural sociotechnical transitions. Our insights relate to challenges and opportunities to ‘do’ social science within the context of contemporary and nascent transitions such as increasing digitalisation. Researchers trained in social science theory and practice can make distinctive contributions to agri‐food innovation processes by making social stakes visible and by advancing inclusive processes of research policy and technology design.
Digitalisation is widely regarded as having the potential to provide productivity and sustainability gains for the agricultural sector. However, there are likely to be broader implications arising from the digitalisation of agricultural innovation systems. Agricultural knowledge and advice networks are important components of agricultural innovation systems that have the potential to be digitally disrupted. In this paper, we review trends within agricultural knowledge and advice networks both internationally and in Australia, to anticipate and prepare for potential transformations in these networks. Through a combined structured and traditional review of relevant literature, we come to three key conclusions regarding the state-of-the-art. First, the connectivity of humans and technologies in agricultural knowledge and advice networks and value chains will likely continue to increase. Second, transparency of agricultural practices and informational interaction between farmers, advisors, agri-businesses, consumers and regulators will drive and be driven by growing connectivity. Finally, there are likely to be challenges balancing the priorities of various agricultural stakeholders as agricultural innovation systems digitalise. These findings have implications for the oversight of international agri-food sectors.