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  1. 1. Wiebe Bijker: Of Bicycles, Bakelites, and Bulbs Toward a Theory of Sociotechnical Change
  2. 2. Introduction <ul><li>Understanding the place of technology in our lives and in our society. </li></ul><ul><li>Examples from three technological advances: </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>The safety bicycle </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Bakelite plastic </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Fluorescent bulbs </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Technology and society are human constructs </li></ul>
  3. 3. Bijker (be é -ker) <ul><li>Dutch engineering student in the 1970s </li></ul><ul><li>Drawn to Science Technology Society movement (STS) </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Risks of nuclear energy </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Environmental degradation </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Followed Social Construction of Technology apprach (SCOT) </li></ul>
  4. 4. Classification, bad <ul><li>Tried to dissolve STS boundaries </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Seamless web </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Abhorred linear thinking </li></ul>
  5. 5. A vague diagram
  6. 6. Summary <ul><li>Technological inventions are created within society; cannot be viewed distinctly </li></ul><ul><li>Gives three concrete stories and ties them in to their societal frameworks </li></ul><ul><li>Keywords: </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Relevant Social Group </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Interpretive Flexibility: Closure/Stabilization </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Technological Frame </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Power </li></ul></ul></ul>
  7. 7. Part 1: Of Bicycles…
  8. 8. Part 1: Of Bicycles… <ul><li>Early 19 th century, Baron von Drais’ draisenne </li></ul>
  9. 9. Part 1: Of Bicycles… <ul><li>Early 19 th century, Baron von Drais’ draisienne </li></ul>
  10. 10. Part 1: Of Bicycles…
  11. 11. Part 1: Of Bicycles…
  12. 12. Part 1: Of Bicycles…
  13. 13. Part 1: Of Bicycles…
  14. 14. Part 1: Of Bicycles…
  15. 15. <ul><li>Relevant user group – are the social groups centered around the technology, in this case, the Ordinary bicycle. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Users: Young men of means and nerve </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Non-users: Everybody else </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Manufacturers: industrialized machine industries de-stabilized by Franco-German war </li></ul></ul>Part 1: Of Bicycles…
  16. 16. <ul><li>Interpretive flexibility – the definition of the artifact according to the relevant user group </li></ul><ul><ul><li>For young men of means and nerve – it is a working technology, slightly dangerous, but that was, partly, the point. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>For everybody else – it is a non-working technology. It was unsafe. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>For manufacturers – how do you develop it for wider use? </li></ul></ul>Part 1: Of Bicycles…
  17. 17. Part 1: Of Bicycles…
  18. 18. Part 1: Of Bicycles…
  19. 19. Part 1: Of Bicycles…
  20. 20. “ The Fourth Kingdom” The Social Construction of Bakelite
  21. 21. Baekeland Lone inventor?
  22. 22. Two New Concepts <ul><li>Technological Frame </li></ul><ul><li>Degree of Inclusion </li></ul><ul><li>But first, some background to the story of Bakelite… </li></ul>
  23. 23. What is Bakelite? <ul><li>Trademark for a molding material patented by Baekeland in 1907 </li></ul><ul><li>Formed in condensation reaction that occurs when phenol and formaldehyde are combined </li></ul><ul><li>Insoluble, infusible, and unaffected by other chemicals </li></ul><ul><li>First truly synthetic plastic </li></ul><ul><li>Moldable but hardens </li></ul>
  24. 24. Precursors to Bakelite and Relevant Social Groups <ul><li>Old “Plastics” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Resin, horn, tortoiseshells, ivory, etc. (luxury market) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>New Plastics Made from Natural Materials </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Rubber – useful but ugly </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Celluloid – useful but flammable </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Search for Synthetic Plastics </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Concern about scarcity of natural resources </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Precursors created demand for consumer products (emergence of new social group) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Phenol-formaldehyde experiments </li></ul></ul>
  25. 25. Discovery of Bakelite <ul><li>Turn-of-the-Century </li></ul><ul><li>Phenol-formaldehyde research in disarray </li></ul><ul><li>Baekeland tries to find patterns in chaos </li></ul><ul><li>Applies for patent for product he calls Bakelite: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Product A: Liquid </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Product B: Elastic </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Product C: Hard yet gummy </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Product D: Hard and insoluble </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Laboratory notes show he was interested in commercial applications </li></ul>
  26. 26. “ Technological Frame” <ul><li>Each relevant social group has own Technological Frame </li></ul><ul><li>Builds when relevant social groups interact around an artifact </li></ul><ul><li>Provides the goals, ideas and tools needed for action (solving problems) </li></ul><ul><li>Outcome is constrained by the social group, but outcome is not predetermined. </li></ul><ul><li>Also applies to non-technical groups such as consumers, managers, politicians, etc. </li></ul>
  27. 27. “ Degree of Inclusion” <ul><li>As actors can be members of more than one relevant social group, they can also be influenced by more than one technological frame </li></ul><ul><li>“ Degree of inclusion” in a technological frame depends on extent to which an actor’s interactions are structured by that frame </li></ul><ul><li>Bijker: Innovation often comes from inclusion in more than one technological frame </li></ul>
  28. 28. Baekeland’s Inclusion in Technological Frames <ul><li>Photochemist </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Experience as photochemist (inventor of photographic paper) led him to attempt to map all possible variables of the phenol-formaldehyde reaction </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Electrochemist </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Interested in producing raw materials for industry (not consumer products) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Businessman </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Interested in whether processes can be scaled up </li></ul></ul>
  29. 29. The Social Construction of Bakelite Early Contacts with Industry Industrial Designers Patent Litigation Collaboration with Industry World War I Consumers Museums
  30. 30. The social construction of fluorescent lighting The majesty of daylight
  31. 31. Overview <ul><li>Lightbulbs invented in 1880 by Edison </li></ul><ul><li>This chapter focuses on 1938-1940s </li></ul><ul><li>Interplay between INDUSTRY, GOVERNMENT & CONSUMERS </li></ul><ul><li>Engineers had devised fluorescent lighting long before the socially constructed final product appeared </li></ul>
  32. 32. Key players <ul><li>1890s </li></ul><ul><li>MAZDA LIGHTING </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Comprised GE and Westinghouse </li></ul></ul><ul><li>UTILITIES </li></ul><ul><li>FIXTURE MANUFACTURERS </li></ul><ul><li>PUBLIC </li></ul><ul><li>GOVERNMENT </li></ul>
  33. 33. Consolidation <ul><li>1901 </li></ul><ul><li>GE, Westinghouse, Others </li></ul><ul><li>Others consolidate into National Electric Lamp Company. </li></ul><ul><li>GE provided capital by purchasing 75% of stock </li></ul><ul><li>GE owns 97% of U.S. electric lighting market </li></ul>
  34. 34. GENERAL ELECTRIC: Antitrust/Mergers/Cross-licensing
  35. 35. Utility companies <ul><li>Private companies, collective organizaton </li></ul><ul><li>Organized as licensees of Mazda </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Dependencies </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Understandings” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Utilities promoted Mazda lamps </li></ul><ul><li>Mazda promoted higher consumption </li></ul>
  36. 36. Fixture companies <ul><li>No electric co. made accessories </li></ul><ul><li>RLM Standards Institute </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Established industry standards </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Favored Mazda </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>(who happened to collaborate in the standardization) </li></ul></ul></ul>
  37. 37. 1930s <ul><li>Despite Great Depression—belief in technology </li></ul><ul><li>Technology was the buzzword </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Object, process, knowledge, symbol </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Electricity—Symbol! </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Sense of wonder </li></ul></ul>
  38. 38. World’s Fair 1939 <ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li>Utopian </li></ul><ul><li>Introduced new technologies, including fluorescent lighting—an opportunity! </li></ul>
  39. 39. From tint to daylight <ul><li>Originally for tint lighting—specialty </li></ul><ul><li>High-efficiency daylight fluorescent </li></ul><ul><li>“3 to 200 times as much light for the same wattage” </li></ul><ul><li>“Amazing efficiency” </li></ul><ul><li>“Most economical” </li></ul><ul><li>“Indoor daylight at last.” </li></ul>
  40. 40. Uh-oh: Relevant Social Groups <ul><li>Utilities feared lost revenues </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Tried to emphasize the “tinted” aspect </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Even Mazda was concerned </li></ul><ul><ul><li>How long would this bulb last? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Independents </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Hygrade-Sylvania </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Public </li></ul><ul><li>Fixture Makers </li></ul>
  41. 41. Nela Park Conference <ul><li>April 24-25, 1939 in Cleveland </li></ul><ul><li>“Fluorescent Council of War” </li></ul><ul><li>Create High-Intensity Daylight Lamp </li></ul><ul><li>Nix High-Efficiency Lamp </li></ul>
  42. 42. GE vs. the Govt. <ul><li>GE’s power continues through WWII </li></ul><ul><li>2 lawsuits involving GE were dismissed because they “interfered with the war effort” </li></ul><ul><li>Military was using fluorescent bulbs </li></ul>
  43. 43. POWER <ul><li>Transitive capacity to harness the agency of others to comply with one’s ends. </li></ul><ul><li>Is exercised, not possessed </li></ul><ul><li>Previously— </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Economists would talk of technology without mentioning social power </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Sociologist would not discuss technological power. </li></ul></ul>
  44. 44. Semiotic power <ul><li>Reaching closure, where interpretive flexibility is reduced, is the first step of semiotic power. </li></ul><ul><li>Which means: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>More people in a relevant social group </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>New relevant social groups </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Elaborating the meaning of artifacts </li></ul></ul>
  45. 45. Constraints & Enablers <ul><li>Stabilization results in fixity of meaning </li></ul><ul><li>Fixity of meaning represents power. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Shapes technological frames which specify actions of relevant social group members </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Constrain actions (no high-efficiency bulbs) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Enable actions: routines, patents </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Removes controversy from history </li></ul><ul><ul><li>GE ads for high-intensity </li></ul></ul>