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The Social Construction of Technological Systems

New Directions in the Sociology and History of Technology

Edited by Wiebe E. Bijker, Thomas P. Hughes, and Trevor Pinch

Publication Year: 2012

The 13 essays in this book draw on a wide array of case studies, from cooking stoves to missile systems, from 15th­century Portugal to today's AI labs - to outline an original research program based on a synthesis of ideas from the social studies of science and the history of technology.

Published by: The MIT Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-x

The ideas of this book are everywhere. Collectively, the authors of these essays have captured the most ancient and most modern notions of history and the telling of the story of technology. It is, quite simply, a treasure. However, every author, every publisher when contemplating a reprint has a fundamental concern: ...

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Preface to the Anniversary Edition

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pp. xi-xxxiv

Twenty-five years ago a small international workshop on new developments in the Social and Historical Studies of Technology was held at the University of Twente in the Netherlands. That workshop led to the first edition of this book. We think enough time has passed to produce a new edition. ...

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Acknowledgments (preface from original edition)

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pp. xxxv-xxxviii

Many collections of papers that stem from conferences do not see the light of day until long after everyone has forgotten what all the excitement was about. We have made every effort to prevent this from happening with the current volume. ...

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General Introduction (from original edition)

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pp. xxxix-xliv

The origin of this book can be traced back to the Burg Landsberg, an old castle crowning a steep hill in Deutschlandsberg, Austria. This is a remote place without worldly temptations, and the participants of the first meeting of the newly formed European Association for the Study of Science and Technology (EASST) could but stick together and work hard.1 ...

Part I: Common Themes in Sociological and Historical Studies of Technology

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pp. 3-10

System builders are no respecters of knowledge categories or professional boundaries. In his notebooks Thomas Edison so thoroughly mixed matters commonly labeled economic, technical, and scientific that his thoughts composed a seamless web. ...

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The Social Construction of Facts and Artifacts: Or How the Sociology of Science and the Sociology of Technology Might Benefit Each Other

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pp. 11-44

One of the most striking features of the growth of “science studies” in recent years has been the separation of science from technology. Sociological studies of new knowledge in science abound, as do studies of technological innovation, but thus far there has been little attempt to bring such bodies of work together.1 ...

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The Evolution of Large Technological Systems

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pp. 45-76

Among the components in technological systems are physical artifacts, such as the turbogenerators, transformers, and transmission lines in electric light and power systems.2 Technological systems also include organizations, such as manufacturing firms, utility companies, and investment banks, ...

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Society in the Making: The Study of Technology as a Tool for Sociological Analysis

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pp. 77-98

Social scientists, whether they are historians, sociologists, or economists, have long attempted to explain the scope, effects, and conditions of the development of technology. They consider technology a specific object that presents a whole range of problems that these experts have tried to solve using a series of different methods ...

Part II: Simplifying the Complexity

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pp. 101-104

As we noted in the general introduction, many of the recent developments in the social study of technology consist of detailed empirical analyses of the “content” of various technological artifacts and systems and their environment. This “thick description” results in a wealth of detailed information about the technical, social, economic, ...

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Technology and Heterogeneous Engineering: The Case of Portuguese Expansion

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pp. 105-128

How do objects, artifacts, and technical practices come to be stabilized? And why do they take the shape or form that they do? In this chapter I advocate and exemplify an approach to these questions that stresses (1) the heterogeneity of the elements involved in technological problem solving, ...

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The Nelson-Winter-Dosi Model and Synthetic Dye Chemistry

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pp. 129-154

Although economics is virtually unique among the social sciences with its long-standing interest in analyzing the nature and causes of technological change, we do not think that most of its contributions are particularly relevant to the general student of technology. ...

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The Social Construction of Bakelite: Toward a Theory of Invention

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pp. 155-182

The aim of this chapter is to put forward some theoretical concepts whereby the development processes of technological artifacts can be understood. The approach I suggest extends the social constructivist analysis of the development outlined by Pinch and Bijker (this volume). ...

Part III: Strategic Research Sites

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pp. 185-188

One of the difficulties facing any study of technology is heterogeneity. Unlike the case of science, in which it is possible to identify communities of practitioners who produce and ratify scientific knowledge, in technology there is a variety of groups involved. ...

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Missile Accuracy: A Case Study in the Social Processes of Technological Change

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pp. 189-216

Few processes of technological development are fraught with greater significance than the growth in accuracy of strategic missiles. In its current series of flight tests, the MX/Peacekeeper missile has demonstrated the apparent ability to hurl ten nuclear warheads, each with a force many times that of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima, ...

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The Social Locus of Technological Practice: Community, System, or Organization?

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pp. 217-236

At the risk of doing some violence to the historian’s craft, it is probably fair to say that most serious historical treatment of technology falls into one of two broad traditions: intellectual and artifactual accounts that have their origins in classical approaches in the history of science, or in biographical and organizational accounts ...

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Regulatory Science and the Social Management of Trust in Medicine

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pp. 237-252

Over the past two centuries treatment of the sick has become the monopoly of the medical profession, supported by an increasingly complicated medical technology and protected, regulated, and in large part paid for by public agencies. Folk medicine, magic, and quackery have waned. In all industrial societies social systems of medical care have evolved. ...

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The Consumption Junction: A Proposal for Research Strategies in the Sociology of Technology

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pp. 253-272

The sociology of technology, if it is ever to justify its existence as a subdiscipline, should take as its proper domain of study those aspects of social change in which artifacts are implicated. The processes by which one artifact supplants another (technological change) or by which an artifact reorganizes social structures (technological determinism) ...

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Seeing with Sound: A Study of the Development of Medical Images

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pp. 273-296

This chapter is a contribution to a growing debate on the sociology of technological innovation. It is organized around a case study that describes some of the stages in the origination of a medical technology, the ultrasound scanner. In particular, I discuss differing ways of trying to generate two-dimensional images using high-frequency sound waves in the 1940s and 1950s. ...

Part IV: Technology and Beyond

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pp. 299-302

Much of the argument of this book has dealt in one way or another with the relationship between technology and society. Rather than studying the social impact of technology, the authors have been more concerned with showing how technology itself can be understood as a social product, or at least as possessing a social dimension. ...

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Reconstructing Man and Machine: A Note on Sociological Critiques of Cognitivism

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pp. 303-320

The social study of technology is currently undergoing an expansion and a transformation. One impetus for this development is the application of many of the ideas and approaches of the sociology of scientific knowledge to the study of technology. ...

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Expert Systems and the Science of Knowledge

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pp. 321-340

Artificial intelligence (AI) and its offshoots are of more than normal interest to historians and sociologists of technology. It looks as though AI will be the foundation of one of the key technologies of the later part of the twentieth century, and this is justification enough for a theoretically informed documentation of its development. ...


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pp. 341-370

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pp. 371-374

Wiebe E. Bijker is research fellow at the Twente University of Technology. He is interested in the history and sociology of technology and also in applying recent results of science and technology studies to secondary school education. ...

Name Index

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pp. 375-384

Subject Index

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pp. 385-426

E-ISBN-13: 9780262301626
Print-ISBN-13: 9780262517607

Page Count: 424
Publication Year: 2012