Social Construction of Technology

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ITO 1 Individual Assignment Social Construction and Social Shaping of Technology

Course Tutors: Professor Brain Bloomfield & Professor Theo Vurdubakis Submitted by: Amit Tewari Student Id: 30646848

Theories of social construction of technology provide ways to identify the influence of society in development of technologies. What do we mean when we say that technology is socially constructed? This paper explaining the theory of social construction of technology and providing with some examples cited in existing literature tries to answer this question. It also briefly explains a related theory i.e. Social shaping of technology and tries to determine differences if any, between the two socially focussed theories. Throwing some lights on the criticism attached with the two theories it tries to provide with a conclusion.

“Necessity is the mother of invention.” A famous quote often used, however the question is why a need of something arises? Are the things we have not sufficient enough that we need more. Human is a social animal, but the insecurity of the word animal being associated with this species of living being forced him to draw a clear line between animals and humans. In his urge to draw this line he perceived his environment differently. His perception made him realize to do things differently and efficiently and in this process his needs raised and changed with time. Technology came as an answer to all human needs. Technology evolved humans and this process it also evolved with humans. Stone age to the age of spacecraft’s. The world of the made is entirely different from the world of the born (Basalla, 1988). The world in which we are born changes with time. We experience these changes throughout our life and often compare the two worlds. Gergen in his book “An invitation to social construction” narrates how his social world forced him to use technology over pen and paper and finally agrees to the fact that the technology transformed his life. Technology is considered as a driving force for human evolution, today technology is considered to have an independent existence rather being considered as a human creation. Technological determinists are of the opinion that technology follows a path which is self-predicted and does not have a social or political influence over it. This ideology defeats the belief that humans are the creators of the so called technology. The existence of human is way before the term existed, everything that comes into existence has a creator, this may lead to an infinite regression problem of who is the creator of this world, but discussing this will be like beating around the bush just to prove the statement incorrect and meaningless. The question is more about, is technology a self-driving force and in turn forces the society to change with it? Or technology is socially constructed. Historians like T. Huges and researchers like Bijker and Pitch advocates that “technology is socially constructed” by this they refer that it not the technology that determines the human action rather it is the human action that shapes technology. To say that technology is socially constructed we need to follow an approach towards technology that is fundamentally sociological.

Social approach towards technology
Social construction of technology (SCOT) is a theory that attempts to understand how social, political and economic consideration shape technology and its development. Pitch and Bijker presented the SCOT theory as a framework which consists of three related components. The first component is “Interpretative flexibility”. “The idea of interpretative flexibility is extracted from empirical program of relativism in the social studies of science.” (Pitch 1997, 1986; Collin, 1975, cited in Klein et. al, 2002)

The idea considers technology and design as open processes and suggests that outcomes to technologies and designs are different depending on the social...
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