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Sociotechnical Ensembles and Configurations

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Stephan Larose

February 28, 2014 Sociotechnical Ensembles and Configurations: Assessment of SCOT • Bijker fills last details of his model and introduces three more terms; o Sociotechnical ensembles o Obduracy • The Configuration Model o The Seamless Web: everything is inter-connected, we must not make distinctions between science, technology, society, and economics. Sociotechnical change comes as a package and we must understand both at the same time.  Since case studies are social and technical (ie. bicycle about users and technical parts, invention of fluorescent about electricity and about power relations). It makes no sense trying to sort out what is technical or what is social.  Technology is socially-constructed and society is technologically- constructed; they are bound together.  However, sociotechnology isn’t a combination but a packaged unit of analysis. • This is deemed the sociotechnical ensemble, which ties in alternative configurations of technological frames. o Any sociotechnical ensemble can have 0, 1, or 2+ dominant TF. • If we know the particular configuration we are dealing it, we can specify what sociotechnical processes will occur. • This model can be seen in the history of the PC; o No dominant TF (thus lots of design flexibility);  Every computer was different  Amateur kits  Engineers designing own computers and operating systems  No standard format for representing data  Apple, floppy disks, file organization systems, and user groups o Soon after sociotechnical process of computer evolved to a point  Commodore’s Amiga in multimedia  IBM on business uses  Apple for the non-technical market  Diskettes specifically formatted for just one type of computer  Exchange of information very difficult  Software available from the manufacturer o Then Microsoft’s MSDOS and Windows operating system  This led to one dominant frame of Microsoft Windows  Other players that have survived relegated to niche markets  Innovates of degree, not of kind: faster CPUSs, better sound cards, and graphic cards  Wireless networks, but this innovation came outside the sociotechnical ensemble of the PC o When only one dominant TF, innovations tend to be conventional (no breakthroughs). • Another example would be Polaroid and Film-based photography; o Polaroid’s first business model was to sell cameras at cheap and making profit by selling films.  Invented instant and amateur photography. o In 1989, 40% of R&D budget on digital imaging.  But when leaders found no film to sell with digital imaging, decided against it.  Polaroid could find no new model because no new film to sell. o In the mid-90s, research in digital imaging was stopped. Investing in marketing strategies instead—Barbie, Spice Girls, and
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