Accepted paper:

Innovations and Institutions on the Peripheries of Technological Commons


Allen Batteau (Wayne State University)

Paper short abstract:

Technological innovation creates new goods and resources and risks, the allocation of which is then subject to negotiation. Communities on the peripheries of innovation have limited ability to bargain over the allocations of risk and benefit. Examining innovations in transportation, information, and biological technologies, I demonstrate that technological innovation has the potential for magnifying inequities in the world system.

Paper long abstract:

Technological innovations, particularly those that can be characterized as "disruptive innovation," (Christiansen 2008) create new forms of value, whether in the values of immediacy, connectivity, or mastery of information. Yet as Michel Callon (1998) has observed, in any régime of value, decisions of what to externalize and what to internalize are governed more by convention than by any Laws of Nature: Technological innovations create new common pool resources, the control of which, particularly in the earlier stages of technological development, require considerable negotiation and institution-building. Technological Peripheries (Batteau 2009) are locations (geographic and institutional) that have a weak hand in these negotiations: they must accept the new régime of value, with its allocative decisions (who gets what) already made. Technologies that hold great promise in core locations often create new forms of inequity and inequality on the periphery. These points are illustrated with overviews of the development and institution-building of transportation, information, and biological technologies.

panel PE37
Reconfiguring capitalism, reconfiguring industry, reconfiguring livelihoods