How Users Matter
Users have become an integral part of technology studies. The essays in this volume look at the creative capacity of users to shape technology in all phases, from design to implementation. Using a variety of theoretical approaches, including a feminist focus on users and use (in place of the traditional emphasis on men and machines), concepts from semiotics, and the cultural studies view of consumption as a cultural activity, these essays examine what users do with technology and, in turn, what technology does to users. The contributors consider how users consume, modify, domesticate, design, reconfigure, and resist technological development—and how users are defined and transformed by technology.
The essays in part I show that resistance to and non-use of a technology can be a crucial factor in the eventual modification and improvement of that technology; examples considered include the introduction of the telephone into rural America and the influence of non-users of the Internet. The essays in part II look at advocacy groups and the many kinds of users they represent, particularly in the context of health care and clinical testing. The essays in part III examine the role of users in different phases of the design, testing, and selling of technology. Included here is an enlightening account of one company's design process for men's and women's shavers, which resulted in a "Ladyshave" for users assumed to be technophobes. Taken together, the essays in How Users Matter show that any understanding of users must take into consideration the multiplicity of roles they play—and that the conventional distinction between users and producers is largely artificial.
About the Editors
Nelly Oudshoorn is Professor of Science and Technology Studies at the University of Twente in the Netherlands.
Trevor Pinch is Goldwin Smith Professor of Science and Technology Studies at Cornell University and coeditor of The Social Construction of Technological Systems: New Directions in the Sociology and History of Technology (anniversary edition, MIT Press).
—Donald MacKenzie, School of Social and Political Studies, University of Edinburgh