February 28, 2014
Sociotechnical Ensembles and Configurations: Assessment of
• Bijker fills last details of his model and introduces three more terms;
o Sociotechnical ensembles
• 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
Technology is socially-constructed and society is technologically-
constructed; they are bound together.
However, sociotechnology isn’t a combination but a packaged unit of
• 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
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
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
• 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
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
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