March 5, 2014
Criticisms of SCOT
Review of SCOT
• Upholds principle of symmetry.
• Advocates explaining technological change by reference to social practice; no agency or
power can be the reason of change itself.
• Technology can only be explained by reference to the social elements that have
produced its stabilization—strong brand of social constructivism.
• Any theoretical model simplifies a complex reality, thus critical evaluation is in order;
o Narrowness of scope; can we really explain technical change by focusing on the
Counter: SCOT is not concerned with the aftermath, but only has a
principal aim of explaining technical change rather than social impact.
But; can this really suffice as an explanation or is it inflexible?
• Interpretive flexibility is a little too rigid; does an artifact ever really
leave or is it always capable of re-emerging?
o Structural exclusion; what about excluded groups in technical choice and setting
of technical agendas?
Pays attention only to RSGs than groups that have been supressed.
• Consider that the public was never included in the design process
of the high-efficiency lamp, even though they were relevant as
Exclusion of some social groups (incl. women, racial minorities, and
manual workers), though they might not have discernable impacts or
mentioned in historical documents, matters as they may be “invisible
ie. Richard Dyer’s work on film technologies published “Making White
People White,” where he claimed that these technologies have been
implicitly shaped by a common market of ethnicity—skin color. Typically,
these technologies are fine-tuned to provide a pleasing rendition of white
faces, sometimes at expense to other skin colors—reinforcing certain skin
colors as pleasing aesthetic skin tones.
o Disregards the social structure and the larger power relations within which
technological change takes place; How technical choice may involve dynamics beyond those revealed, or
may have deeper origins that go back centuries ago.
Are micro-level analyses adequate to explain the dynamics of
Symbolic Interactionist perspective; looks at the meaning or symbolic part
of interaction; trying to reconstitute the meaning people gave to things;
sociologists focus on the intentions, self-reflexivity, and motiva