Few modern technologies are designed to stand alone. Because most machines must now fit into systems and be compatible with other technologies, the creation of standards has become a fundamental element of design and engineering. Conflicts such as the "color television war" of the 1970s and recent disputes over high-definition television (HDTV) highlight the complexities of the standard-setting process.
The Closed World offers a radically new alternative to the canonical histories of computers and cognitive science. Integrating political, cultural, and technological history, it argues that we can make sense of computers as tools only when we simultaneously grasp their roles as metaphors and political icons.
This book crystallizes and extends the important work Wiebe Bijker has done in the last decade to found a full-scale theory of sociotechnical change that describes where technologies come from and how societies deal with them. Of Bicycles, Bakelites, and Bulbs integrates detailed case studies with theoretical generalizations and political analyses to offer a fully rounded treatment both of the relations between technology and society and of the issues involved in sociotechnical change.
If it is true, as Tocqueville suggested, that social and class systems shape technology, research, and knowledge, then the effects should be visible both at the individual level and at the level of technical institutions and local environments. That is the central issue addressed in Constructing a Bridge, a tale of two cultures that investigates how national traditions shape technological communities and their institutions and become embedded in everyday engineering practice.
Technology is everywhere, yet a theory of technology and its social dimension remains to be fully developed. Building on the influential book The Social Construction of Technological Systems, this volume carries forward the project of creating a theory of technological development and implementation that is strongly grounded in both sociology and history. The 12 essays address the central question of how technologies become stabilized, how they attain a final form and use that is generally accepted.
This is the story of how one company created and codified a new science "on the run," away from the confines of the laboratory. By construing its service as scientific, Schlumberger was able to get the edge on the competition and construct an enviable niche for itself in a fast-growing industry.
Donald MacKenzie follows one line of technology - strategic ballistic missile guidance through a succession of weapons systems to reveal the workings of a world that is neither awesome nor unstoppable. He uncovers the parameters, the pressures, and the politics that make up the complex social construction of an equally complex technology.
Donald MacKenzie is Reader in Sociology at the University of Edinburgh.
In Artificial Experts, Collins explains what computers can't do, but he also studies the ordinary and extraordinary things that they can do. He argues that the machines we create are limited because we cannot reproduce in symbols what every community knows, yet we give our machines abilities by the way we embed them in our society. He unfolds a compelling account of the difference between human action and machine intelligence, the core of which is a witty and learned explanation of knowledge itself, of what communities know and the ways in which they know it.
In recent years, scholarship around media technologies has finally shed the assumption that these technologies are separate from and powerfully determining of social life, looking at them instead as produced by and embedded in distinct social, cultural, and political practices. Communication and media scholars have increasingly taken theoretical perspectives originating in science and technology studies (STS), while some STS scholars interested in information technologies have linked their research to media studies inquiries into the symbolic dimensions of these tools.
Novel technologies and scientific advancements offer not only opportunities but risks. Technological systems are vulnerable to human error and technical malfunctioning that have far-reaching consequences: one flipped switch can cause a cascading power failure across a networked electric grid. Yet, once addressed, vulnerability accompanied by coping mechanisms may yield a more flexible and resilient society. This book investigates vulnerability, in both its negative and positive aspects, in technological cultures.
The origin of modern science is often located in Europe and the West. This Euro/West-centrism relegates emergent practices elsewhere to the periphery, undergirding analyses of contemporary transnational science and technology with traditional but now untenable hierarchical categories. In this book, Amit Prasad examines features of transnationality in science and technology through a study of MRI research and development in the United States, Britain, and India.
Representation in Scientific Practice, published by the MIT Press in 1990, helped coalesce a long-standing interest in scientific visualization among historians, philosophers, and sociologists of science and remains a touchstone for current investigations in science and technology studies. This volume revisits the topic, taking into account both the changing conceptual landscape of STS and the emergence of new imaging technologies in scientific practice.