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Savoirs contés — la rhétorique des générations technologiques

Thomas Tari

Recounting Knowledge: The Rhetoric of Technological Generations. A new use of the term “generations” has appeared in the technological field to qualify the different versions of a product, represent the successive stages of an innovation process, or distinguish fact from fiction in a controversial context. In this article the author uses the case of the emergence of biofuels to test this literary technology and highlight its performative dimension. By comparing the actors’ discourses with a quali-quantitative analysis of the evolution of research projects in the biofuel field, he identifies the dynamics that these “generational” accounts describe, and those that they leave in the dark. Three types of use are distinguished: the first, biological, sets disparate studies in a progressive and naturalist genealogy; the second, sociological, dissociates and isolates so-called virtuous branches from others, which are disregarded; and the third, rhetorical, under cover of an educational purpose, conveys a political strategy for innovation.