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					     Technology and structure
• The structuring effects of technology
  – Promotes certain behaviors, discourages others
• The meaning of technology
  – Interpretive flexibility
• The structuring OF technology
  – Designed by people who live within social, cultural
  – Designed to fit INTO social, technical conditions
  – Embodies values, assumptions, power relations,
     • examined or not
     • intended or not
Technological politics -- Winner
• Pay attention to the momentum of large-
  scale sociotechnical systems
  – Durability of technology
  – Durability of social systems
  – Stabilization of sociotechnical systems
• Pay attention to the characteristics of tech
  objects and meaning of those
  – Including values of all kinds
    Do artifacts have politics &
• Endogenous: inherent in the technology
  – Strong form: required by the tech
  – Weaker: strongly compatible with
• Exogenous: reside in the users, not the
• Middle way: the way tech is designed
  promotes some kinds of activity, values,
  power relations, and constrain others
              Winner’s conclusion
• ‘Technologies:’ ways of building order in our world.
• Many tech devices and systems contain possibilities for many
  different ways of ordering human activity.
• Society chooses structures for technologies that influence how
  people are going to work, communicate, travel, consume, and so
  forth for a very long time
    – Consciously or not, deliberately or inadvertently
• In the processes by which structuring decisions are made, different
  people are differently situated and possess unequal degrees of
  power and awareness.
• Greatest latitude of choice exists when first introduced.
  Choices tend to become fixed in material equipment, economic
  investment, and social habit. Original flexibility vanishes once initial
  commitments made.
• Tech innovations establish a framework for public order that
  endures across many generations.
                                                                    -p. 33
• Friedman and Nissenbaum:
  – System that systematically and unfairly
    discriminates against certain individuals or
    groups in favor of others.
     • Unfair: denies an opportunity or a good or assigns
       an undesirable outcome to an individual or group
       oon grounds that are unreasonable or
• More generally:
  – Systematic tendency, a preference or
    inclination, not necessarily unfair.
Friedman & Nissenbaum’s types of
• Pre-existing: rooted in social institutions,
  practices, attitudes; prior to creation of system
   – individual
   – societal
• Technical: rooted in tech design
   – Computer tools; algorithms
   – Formalization of human constructs (e.g. expert
     systems; classification/taxonomies)
• Emergent: arises in context of use; result of
   – changing societal knowledge
   – mismatch users and designers
      • different expertise (e.g. literacy)
      • different values (e.g. games/competitive)
• Awareness of how specific technologies enable
  and constrain certain behaviors, social
  arrangements, authority structures
  – May be result of pre-existing, technical, or emergent
• Awareness of differences in groups’ abilities to
  influence decisions
  – Decisions often reinforce current patterns, power
• Awareness of points at which choices are
  possible, most influential
  – The momentum of sociotechnical systems,
    differences in durability of technology > differences in
  Social Construction of Technology
• Purpose
  – Explain development of tech artifacts as alternating
    processes of variation and selection
  – Unpack the uncertainties, branchings, and decision
    points in tech design
  – Demonstrate that techs are socially constructed in
    design as well as use
• Method
  – Identify & describe relevant social groups
  – Sociologically deconstruct the artifact
  – Map mechanisms for stabilization of the artifact
     Limits, criticisms of SCOT
• Has been mostly concerned with design stage
   – But doesn’t have to be
• Relevant social groups
   – Who decides?
   – Importance of groups left out, decisions never
• Ignores structural, cultural features that affect
• Sense of “closure” too rigid
   – On-going design in use
   – Continual design iterations
   – However, persistence and durability
          Benefits of SCOT
• well known in STS world – useful to know
  about it
• Provides a framework and methodology
  – Not perfect, but useful
  – Helps to spur thinking, suggest considerations
    otherwise overlooked
Artifacts & relevant social

  Social                  Social
  group                   group

Social groups and problems

    problem             problem


Problems and solutions

   solution             solution


   solution             solution
          1. Identify & describe
         relevant social groups
• Relevant social group is defined as one in
  which all members share same set of meanings
  for artifact
• You may need to subdivide initial groups
• Technological frames:
   – Structure the interactions among actors within a
     group and explain the development of “sociotechnical
   – Are broad, including theories, goals, practices of use,
     and tacit knowledge. The result is a shared meaning
     within a social group.
• If relevant, include their strength in decision-
  2. Sociologically deconstruct
           the artifact
• What artifacts are “hidden within”?
  – interpretive flexibility – different artifacts
    have different meanings for different groups
• What counts as a viable working artifact
  for each group?
     3 . Map mechanisms for
    stabilization of the artifact
• Stabilization: the design and
  understanding of the artifact are generally
  agreed to
• The problem may be solved
• Relevant social groups may see problems
  as solved (rhetorical closure)
• Problem may be redefined
The bicycle story
            Relevant social groups
Group            Overall     Problems        Possible
                 “Problem”   (Needs,         Solutions
“Young men of    Sport       Speed,          high front wheel
means and                    perception of
nerve”                       danger          NOT air tire
                             Look macho
Women (in long   Transport   Safety          Low front wheel
skirts)                      comfort         Air tire
                             modesty         Changing mores
Older men        Transport   Safety          Low front wheel
                             Comfort         Air tire
Anti-cyclists    ??          ??              ??
   Relevant social groups (cont)
Group             Overall        Problems (Needs,      Possible
                  “Problem”      preferences)          Solutions
Bicycle           Return on      Large enough,         Bicycle that
manufacturers     investment     persistent enough     appeals to
                  Market for     market                multiple groups
                  good idea
Tire              Return on      Large, persistent     Bicycle that
manufacturers     investment     market                appeals to
                                                       multiple groups
                  New market     Pneumatic tires not
                                                       Demo that
                  for product    cool
                                                       pneumatic tires
                                                       are fast &
City planners &   Transportation Horses leave         Vehicles that
builders                         manure; Cars require are low impact,
                                 good roads, threaten work on
                                 pedestrians & horses
                                                      existing roads,
Closure – the “safety” bicycle
      (after 18 years)
     The “Safety” Bicycle
• Air tire
   – Greater comfort
   – Greater speed (so no longer looks
• Low frame with rear chain drive
   – Safety
   – Stability and speed?
• But stabilization is not permanent –
  continuing developments in bicycle
• Technical determinism: tech follows some
  inherent logic of its own and affects
• Social determinism: that society
  determines the shape of technology
• Mutual constitution: a continual interaction,
  with each changing the other
     WRITING – structuring
• Constructing an argument
    – Logical reasoning
    – Structure, flow of argument
•   Using evidence
•   Anticipating counter-arguments
•   Audience
•   Genre: A category of artistic composition,
    as in music or literature, marked by a
    distinctive style, form, or content
         the elements of the text

• Syntax: The rules whereby words or other elements of
  sentence structure are combined to form grammatical
  sentences; the ordering of the grammatical sequences
  within a phrase, with agreement between concomitant
  entities (i.e., between subject and verb, noun and
  pronoun); verb case; and such sentence transformations
  as negativization, interrogation, coordination,
  subordination, passivization and relativization.
• Usage: The way in which words or phrases are actually
  used, spoken, or written in a speech community.
• Grammar
• Spelling
• Punctuation

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