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Paperback | $24.00 Short | £16.95 | ISBN: 9780262651097 | 360 pp. | 6 x 9 in | 11 illus.| August 2005

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How Users Matter

The Co-Construction of Users and Technology


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 Mattershow 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 Professor of Science and Technology Studies and Professor of Sociology at Cornell University. He is the coeditor of How Users Matter: The Co-Construction of Users and Technology (MIT Press, 2003) and the coauthor of Analog Days: The Invention and Impact of the Moog Synthesizer and other books.


"...An important book that thoughtfully and rigorously draws attention to user-oriented studies of technology.", Ben Schneiderman, American Scientist


"The relationships between technologies and their users are intimate and important. This fine collection of essays will engage readers in fields as diverse as sociology of technology, cultural history, and marketing."
—Donald MacKenzie, School of Social and Political Studies, University of Edinburgh

"This wonderful collection of essays expands our understanding of the multiple ways in which different kinds of consumers affect processes of technological change. For decades scholars have concentrated on producers of technology, but now consumers are—finally and rightfully—coming into their own, coming to be understood as important agents of technological change. Dutch milk drinkers, American devotees of outdated computers, British women's health activists, and Norwegian Internet users: users come in many different guises and combinations. These essays teach us that they have shaped the technologies with which they live—and, the authors hope, will continue to do so in the future."
—Ruth Schwartz Cowan, Janice and Julian Bers Professor of the History and Sociology of Science, University of Pennsylvania, author of More Work for Mother and A Social History of American Technology