In this lecture I will compare and contrast theories of technology from the fields of innovation studies and Science and Technology Studies (STS). Various theoretical strands have been developed from different disciplinary backgrounds and with specific aims. In general, theories mobilize concepts and offer storylines to convey a message to readers. Eight theories of technology from innovation studies and STS will be discussed, which either relate to economic traditions (neo-Schumpeterian economics, innovations systems and path dependencies), socio-historical traditions (SCOT, large technical systems and the multi-level perspective) or management traditions (diffusion of innovation, technology cycles). In the lecture I will analyze the central concepts, the frameworks of argumentation and the strategies of intervention they suggest. Second, I compare the theories in five dimensions: (i) levels of aggregation, (ii) technology as process or as outcome, (iii) technology as knowledge or as material, (iv) descriptive vs prescriptive ambitions (v) theory as perspective or as substantial claim. Third, I investigate whether and how theories form particular genres: how the lessons about successes, failure, dynamics and unforeseen consequences are presented in storylines.
Harro van Lente is Full Professor of Science and Technology Studies and head of department at Maastricht University, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. He graduated in physics and philosophy and holds a PhD in the sociology of technical change (University of Twente, 1993). He has published widely on technology dynamics, innovation policy, technology assessment and the politics of knowledge production. He is one of the founding fathers of the sociology of expectations, which studies how representations of the future shape current developments. He is Program Director of Technology Assessment of NanoNextNL, the leading Dutch research consortium in nanotechnology, and council member of the European Association for the Studies of Science and Technology (EASST) and the Society for New and Emerging Technologies (S.NET). In 2013 he was a guest professor at the Center for Nanotechnology and Society at UCSB, Santa Barbara, California.