Authors:Robin Williams (The University of Edinburgh)
Neil Pollock (University of Edinburgh)
Paper long abstract:
This paper explores our developing understandings of the relationship between technology and society that have emerged through an extended enquiry over two decades into the emergence and spread of enterprise systems (ES) - complex software suites that support diverse activities across organisations.
It shows how initial micro-sociological approaches, prevalent in the early stages of technology studies, yielded misleading conclusions that the future of ES lay with customised solutions rather than the generic packages that subsequently prevailed. By extending our enquiry across multiple moments and locales of innovation we examined the co-evolution of artefacts and user organisations over multiple cycles of design and implementation. This perspective that emerged - the biography of artefacts and practices - led us to further extend our study to capture the new forms of expertise that enabled the market in these complex systems to operate and also to develop new conceptual frameworks to analyse the emergence of information infrastructures (rather than discrete information systems).
These developments represent in some ways a constructive working through of the debates that took place as Technology Studies emerged in the 1980s about different conceptions of 'the social shaping of technology', e.g. between action-centred and social relations accounts.
We suggest that Science and Technology Studies has drawn very effectively upon other cognate traditions - for example organisation studies, sociology of markets. This cross-breeding has underpinned the continued conceptual dynamism of our field (though paradoxically work from Innovation Systems perspectives, narrowly conceived, has not really been a significant contributor).
Cross-breeding science and technology studies and innovation studies