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Theory and Practice in the Study of Technological Systems
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This dissertation is intended to further technology studies by analyzing some of its important methodological tools and using those tools in combination to study complex technological systems in an historical context. The first chapter of the dissertation examines in detail four influential models by which complex technological systems have been analyzed: Hughesâ s system model, Bijkerâ s social construction model, Latour, Callon, and Lawâ s actor-network model, and Ruth Schwartz Cowanâ s consumption junction model. For each model, I summarize the seminal works, analyze the uses of the model in the literature, and offer some refinements to the models based on that analysis. Chapter 2 presents three case studies applying these models two different technological systems. First, the early development of the American automobile industry, 1895 to 1940, is studied using Hughesâ s concepts of technological momentum and reverse salients. Second, the automobileâ s impact on American society is explored over the same time period relying on Ruth Schwartz Cowanâ s consumer-oriented perspective and Wiebe Bijkerâ s concept of technological frames. The third case study examines the technological means by which, over a long period of time, American cities were rendered impervious to huge conflagrationsâ commonplace until the end of the 19th century. For the analysis of this system, I use actor-network theory, Wiebe Bijkerâ s technological frames, and Hughesâ s reverse salients.
- Doctoral Dissertations