Ina Wagner has made a transition from physics (she holds a PhD in nuclear physics) to anchoring her research in CSCW (Computer Supported Cooperative Work) and PD (Participatory Design). After completing her PhD thesis, she worked on a Habilitation project in the field of science education, from a sociology of knowledge perspective, and was awarded her first Habilitation by the University of Klagenfurt in 1979 (monograph Gelehrte Erfahrung. Zu einer Theorie der Curriculuminnovation. Frankfurt: Campus, 1979). In the period 1983-85 she acted as Chair of the Austrian Sociological Society. 1987 she was offered a professorship at TUW in ‘Computers and Society’, which she transformed into an interdisciplinary research unit. In 1998 she was awarded an Extended Habilitation in ‘Multidisciplinary Design and CSCW’ by TUW. In 1989 she was offered a Department Directorship at the Science Center in Berlin, in 1991 a Chair in Sociology of Industrial Societies at Johann-Wolfgang-Goethe University Frankfurt, both of which she declined. 1990-1991 she held an Endowed Chair in Interdisciplinary Studies at the Technische Hochschule Darmstadt.
Ina Wagner’s scientific career has been based on interdisciplinarity from the outset. Her major intellectual project is to achieve a deeper understanding of (collaborative) work practices and technology use in fields as varied as health care, architecture and urban planning, and other professional contexts. As diverse as her research topics may appear, they have a common focus on material practices in different professional and organizational contexts, in particular on how cooperative practice reproduces the diversity of its environment in the form of the multiplicity of ‘small worlds’ of professions and specialties. In much of her work she is also applying a gender perspective.
Ina Wagner was among the first to bring health care to the attention of CSCW research, with a monograph ‘Das computerisierte Krankenhaus’ (1991), followed by a series of projects and peer reviewed journal papers on nursing and computer technologies (based on field studies in Austria and France); on time planning in a surgical clinic; on the introduction of PACS (digital imaging and archiving technologies) in radiology (with a focus on spatial relationships in work settings); and, more recently, on the variations of work practices and artefacts in several oncology clinics in Austria, with a view onto understanding the tensions between local work practices and global concerns.
Ina Wagner has made salient contributions to the understanding of architectural practice, based on twelve years of fieldwork, where she studied architecture in ‘real settings’ (in contrast to the mostly cognitively oriented studies, based on lab experiments, in the field of ‘design studies’), with a focus on collaborative practices and on artefacts, their persuasive nature, their materiality, as well as their representational and coordinative functions.
Much of Ina Wagner’s research within the last ten years has been embedded in the context of EU funded technology development projects. This allowed her to immerse herself in experimental, creative, and participatory practices, directed at bridging the social worlds of practitioners and those of engineers, with a focus on understanding use situations of technologies and their appropriation by practitioners. The mixed-reality technologies, which were developed by Ina Wagner’s research team in the context of EU project IPCity was recently selected to be shown at the European City of Science exhibition in the Grand Palais, Paris (Nov 14-16, 2008).
Ina Wagner engaged early on in analysing ethical and political aspects of ICT, with a focus on medical technologies, as member of the ‘Forum Information Society’, European Commission (1996-1998), as member of the European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies, European Commission (1998-2001), and as member of the National Austrian Bioethics Committee (since 2001).