Accepted Paper:

Complementarities or liabilities between user innovation and S&TS: Analysing the dynamics of dispersed peer-innovation  


Sampsa Hyysalo (Aalto University)
Svetlana Usenyuk-Kravchuk (Ural State University of Architecture and Art)

Paper long abstract:

In arctic Russia people regularly ride "karakats", ecologically sound all terrain vehicles that float on thin ice, water and permafrost on their "balloon tires" and light chassis. Each of these machines appears different. Through our biographies of technologies and practices study (Hyysalo, 2010), it turned out it was users who have invented, modified, diversified and iterated this technology, as well as continued to self-build and self-maintain it. Karakats have half a century of history, hundreds of design variants. Manufacturers serve small subsection of the substantial market, albeit created new markets based on karakat principles. For S&TS, the study reveals how "innofusion" (fleck 1988; Williams et al. 2005) can take place in a dispersed manner and how interaction arenas among peers can be turned into formidable knowledge infrastructures. In innovation studies assumption has been that manufacturers will supplant innovating users if the innovation is valuable to many. Karakats' extended era and wide domain of user dominance challenges this view, moreover as this technology is not digital or coordinated open design. To us concepts from both traditions help make sense of the phenomena and to reinstate their mutual relevance. The resulting line of argumentation, based on combinatory effect of previously known dynamics on users in innovation may, however, fall through the cracks of epistemic virtues of one or other community. It may remain too qualitatively detailed yet numerically inconclusive for innovation studies and too schematic and mechanistic for S&TS. Elaborating on these complementarities and liabilities forms the thrust of our presentation.

Panel K2
Cross-breeding science and technology studies and innovation studies