s415.c03.fa10 - SOCIOLOGY 415: Technology and Society...

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Unformatted text preview: SOCIOLOGY 415: Technology and Society University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa , Fall 2010 Textbook: Volti, Rudi. 2009. Society and Technological Change. 6t h edition. Worth Publishers Inc. REVIEW — PART TWO: The Process Of Technologica l Change. CHAPTER 3: THE SOURCES OF TECHNOLOGIC AL CHANGE E (36-54*) Technological change is a social process. In recent year s, study of technological change was strongly influenced by perspective known as “social cons structivism”; technological change does not occur because new devices and processes demonst rate their cle r-cut superiority over ea other ways of doing things — analysis begins with need to explain why certain technologies are assumed to work better than others. Social constructivis ts describe how social structures and processes have affected choices of technologies (35*). Social constructivists — particularly interested in delinea ting the main actors involved in the development and selection of particular technologies, an d noting how their actions reflect their positions in society. Technological “closure” (point at wh ich a technology is accepted as way to do things, while others disappear or are marginalized) is closely tied to presence of specific interest groups and their ability to affect the selection pro cess (35*). Social, political, and economic forces are likely to exert greatest influence when several alternative technologies emerge at about the same time. Difficult to deviate from path laid out by technical o requirements once a technology has become well established. Example: Automobile engines (36*). Key players in technological advances are not inventors of new technologies, but entrepreneurs s who make inventions into commercial successes by takiing risks and generally doing what had not been done before (36*). A great deal of technological change is the result of sma ll, incremental changes which, as individual contributions, may seem modest — but in agg regate have been an extremely important source of technological advance. Example: A merican ra i lroads (37 * ). Research (an expensive process) is the basis of technollogical progress, but the realization of the potentialities created by research breakthroughs usu ally requires a lengthy process of development (an even more expensive process). Proble ms must be resolved; the new material or device must be put into a form that allows quantity pro duction at a reasonable cost. Example: Penicillin (38*). 1928 — Scottish microbiologist Alexander Fleming accident ally discovere d that a mold ( penicillium notatum) growing on a petri dish inhibited bacteria growth and concluded the mold had produced a compo und he called penicillin. His discovery was not pursue d further. 1940 — Australian bacteriologist Howard Florey and Germa n biochemist Ernst Chain isolated the antiba cterial agent produced by the mold. 1941 — A patient was treated with penicillin to combat an infe ction, but there was an insufficient supply to cure h im and the patient died. Later, Florey and Chain began to produce the antibiotic in bulk, growing the mold i n large tanks containing corn-steep liquor. 1944 — Mass development of penicillin in U.S. reduce d death toll of WWII. 1945 — Fleming, Florey, Chain awarded Nobel Prize in Med icine for their discovery. Page 1 of 2 SOCIOLOGY 415: Technology and Society University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa , Fall 2010 Often, a technological leap forward takes place due to th e availability of complementary technological developments that allow the resolution of f undamental problems (39*). Read All Together Now (39-41*). Technological innovati on is a “coupling process” — occurs at the interfaces between science, technology, and the ma rket (41*). Supply and demand dictate the places and times in whic h technological innovation occurs. Technology is like any other good or service — it will not be produced unless some person, group, or organization wants it and is willing to buy it. In order to understand why certain technologies have flourished while others have declined , the configuration of a society must be considered along with how it determines the effective de mand for particular technologies. Example: Horseshoes (43*). From its inception, a new p roduct or process must be developed with an eye toward meeting the needs of actual or poten tial customers (44*). Read Belated Demand (44-46*). The great technological innovations that began in the miid-15th C. with improvements in shipbuilding and ocean navigation were closely associat ed with the rise of capitalism and emergence of a market system. A market system organi zed around the principle of private property was of crucial importance for the stimulation an d guidance of inventive and innovative abilities, and their application to production (46*). One of the strongest accolades to technological dynamis m of capitalist society is found in The Communist Manifesto. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels n ote with admiration that “the bourgeoisie, during its rule of scarce one hundred years , has created more massive and s colossal productive forces than have all preceding gene rations together” (46*). e A market economy driven by activities of self-interested businessmen has produced the most receptive environment for technological innovation. Ther e are several reasons for this: A market economy will stimulate inventive eff orts — promises financial rewards to those able to meet the needs of consumer s. A market economy is characterized by the pr esence of numerous competitors — producer strongly motivated to develop and a pply new technologies in order to make better products and reduce production costs. A market system is particularly effective in eliiciting the production of auxiliary items necessary for technological innovation (47*). A market economy has two circular flows. In a market system, every good or service that flows is sold and bought, so every flow of real stuff has a flow of money in the opposite direction. In the diagram: • One direction is resources, goods, and services. • The other direction is money. Source: USC, Arnold School of Public Health, 2003. Page 2 of 2 ...
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This note was uploaded on 11/15/2010 for the course SOC 415 taught by Professor Swift,d during the Fall '08 term at University of Hawaii, Manoa.

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