The Social Shaping of Technology: A New Space for Politics?

Yutaka Yoshinaka, Christian Clausen, Anne Grethe Hansen

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapterResearch

    Abstract

    The social shaping of technology (SST) perspective has developed as a response to techno-economically rational and linear conceptions of technology development and its consequences. It has brought together analysts from different backgrounds with a common interest in the role of social and political action for socio-technical change. Thus, SST is a broad term, covering a large domain of studies and analyses concerned with the mutual influence of technology and society on technology development. In this chapter we emphasise the political dimensions of social shaping, through a focus on the socio-technical processes entailed in technology development and change. Our perspective is based on the understanding that technological development unfolds through processes with political implications, involving actors, their occasions and strategies that help bring about transitions in technological change. We identify a new perspective on political processes, with a broader focus on the political dimensions of technological decision-making, and a broader treatment of socio-technical space, maintaining a focus on inclusion and exclusion of actors, salient issues and how they are dealt with and resolved. Based on lessons from a distinct selection of Danish technology assessment (TA) initiatives we illustrate how influence comes about, not in a deterministic sense, but that things could be otherwise, in contrast to traditional technical, economic or social rationales. Furthermore, these produce effects, which are non-neutral and distributed, as the processes of shaping themselves have been. The chapter develops the notion of SST through socio-technical spaces. Here a heterogeneous set of elements, comprising of techniques, social actors, attribution of meanings, and problem definitions, etc. together set the stage for technology development. Within the framework of socio-technical spaces, the TA activities are analysed to illustrate how social shaping can be identified in a range of instances: from actual influences on specific technology developments, to influence on larger societal discourses and policy conceptions.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationTechnikgestaltung zwischen Wunsch und Wirklichkeit.
    EditorsA. Grunwald
    PublisherSpringer Verlag
    Publication date2003
    Pages117-137
    Publication statusPublished - 2003

    Keywords

    • Socio-technical space
    • Social shaping of technology
    • Technology assessment
    • Political processes

    Cite this