Markets, innovation dynamics and system building
Location Bowland North Seminar Room 23
Date and Start Time 28 Jul, 2018 at 09:30
Sessions 1


  • Dawn Goodwin (Lancaster University) email
  • Gordon Walker (Lancaster University) email

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Chair Gordon Walker

Short abstract

The dynamics of change in innovation systems and the shifting roles of social-technical devices and infrastructures are key topics for STS, in both historical and contemporary settings. Papers in this session questions of market building, social interests, flexibility and system organisation.

Long abstract

None provided.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


The role of system builders in UK urban tramway development, 1870-1896

Author: Anne-Marie Coles (University of Greenwich) email
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Short abstract

The role of system builders explains dynamics of emergent infrastructures. A core principle is the flexibility to shape large technical systems. However, investigating the role of system builders in early UK tramways demonstrates how contingent constraints can restrict this flexibility for action.

Long abstract

This presentation investigates the socio-technical dynamics that influenced emergence of urban tramways during the latter part of the nineteenth century. In particular, it revisits Hughes (1983) concept of system builders, a heterogeneous coalition of diverse individuals and social groups which creates momentum for change. In Hughes' analysis, infrastructures at the early stage have maximum flexibility to shape their socio-technical position, before becoming fully embedded, inflexible structures. However, emerging technical systems must be strategically aligned within the prevailing social context, to promote benefits of enhanced technological capability while responding to contingent resistances. For Hughes, system builders take on this role.

In terms of urban tramway development, this emerging stage can be investigated through focus on the period between two key pieces of legislation. The 1870 Tramways Act, which set regulations regarding control of new tramways, and the 1896 Light Railways Act. The initial policy attempted to adjudicate between competing social interests, including concerns about aesthetics, safety and fair use of public space. System builders had to negotiate these rules in their attempts to initiate new projects. They were constrained by statutes on ownership, operation and responsibility for highway maintenance. Such developments took place within a wider context where social mobility from improved public transport was regarded with suspicion. This case identifies social and cultural constraints faced by system builders and raises questions about the nature of socio-technical flexibility.

Hughes, T (1983) Networks of Power: Electrification in Western Society, 1880 - 1930, Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins Press.

The cash register as a mundane market device

Author: Athena Piterou (University of Greenwich) email
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Short abstract

The cash register is discussed as a market device which configures retail transactions. The paper examines the changing functions of the cash register within the sociotechnical system of retail as it has evolved from early mechanical models to contemporary point-of-sales (POS) terminals.

Long abstract

The paper examines the evolution of the cash register since the introduction of mechanical cash registers in late 19th century. Cash registers are defined as mechanical or electronic devices that calculate and register transactions between consumers and retailers at the point of sale: hence, they shape the practices of consumers and shop workers. Evidence from the sociology of markets suggests that market exchanges, including retail transactions, are not abstract economic concepts but are materially shaped. The concept of market devices refers to the technical instruments that intervene in the shaping of markets and render economic calculations possible (Muniesa et al., 2007). Any exchange requires complex attachment and entanglements between buyers and sellers (in this case consumers and retailers) which are mediated by market professionals and devices (Callon and Muniesa, 2003). Hence, the cash register is viewed as a market device or market-thing which informs consumer cognition (Cochoy, 2007).

The abacus was arguably the first instrument used to record commercial transactions. Since the mid-19th century increases in transactions volume and concerns about shop workers' honesty acted as drivers for the development of the first mechanical cash register in 1879.The National Cash Register Company dominated the early market because of aggressive marketing and litigation strategies (Friedman, 1998). In the 1970s early electronic cash registers (point of sales terminals) were developed with additional functions and the ability to integrate with inventory management and customer relationship management software. Technologies such as card readers and barcode scanners also interlock with electronic cash registers.

Innovation systems and the innovation market: what relations?

Author: Andrzej Jasinski (University of Warsaw) email
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Short abstract

This is an attempt to find relations between sectoral and technological innovation systems, and the innovation market. The firm's perspective predominates. A special attention is devoted to the innovation market, its structure and specific features, poorly developed in the world's literature.

Long abstract

This is an attempt to find relations between innovation systems, especially sectoral and technological systems of innovation, and the innovation market. The firm's perspective predominates. After a short presentation of both systems, a special attention is devoted to the concept of the innovation market, its structure and specific features, poorly developed in literature. The innovation market, however, is a broader term than the new technology market.

The characterized market is a specific concept. This is not a sectoral market but rather a generic market. There exist certain differences and, at the same time, relations between the sectoral innovation system (SIS) and the innovation market:

• Admittedly, both concepts come from 'different shelves' but they overlap,

• Simplifying, the SIS may be understood as a set of entities engaged into innovation activities in a given branch while an inborn feature of the innovation market, like of each market, is that it has 'two sides of the coin', i.e., demand and supply,

• As the very name suggests, the technological innovation market refers to technical novelties while the SIS includes both the emerging technologies as well as the hitherto existing ones,

• It seems to us that the innovation market concept should be limited to a given country while the SIS, like each industrial sector, much goes beyond country boundaries,

• As a link between the SIS and the innovation market may be treated the technological innovation system that assumes a key importance of supplier-buyer relations, i.e., the market context.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.