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A network perspective on sociotechnical transitions: the print-on-paper sociotechnical system

A network perspective on sociotechnical transitions: the print-on-paper sociotechnical system

Piterou, Athena ORCID: 0000-0003-4138-113X and Steward, Fred (2010) A network perspective on sociotechnical transitions: the print-on-paper sociotechnical system. In: EASST Conference: Practising Science and Technology, Performing the Social, 2-4 September 2010, University of Trento, Italy. (Unpublished)

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The sociotechnical system of the printed paper text prevails for the diffusion of textual communication in the form of the bound volume despite concerns on the environmental effects of paper consumption. Information technology is identified as one of the generic technologies that has the potential to address the unsustainability of the incumbent regime. The electronic book is perceived as those applications of Information Technology that provide an alternative form of textual display to printed paper. According to sociotechnical transitions theory the electronic book can be perceived as a niche in relation to the print-on-paper regime.
An alternative conceptualisation of transitions as the reconfiguration of sociotechnical networks is suggested. Although the multi-level perspective has been effective in the analysis of historical case studies, it can be less adequate for the examination of transitions in progress as the distinctions between the levels are less evident. In the MLP sociotechnical change results from the interaction between three delineated levels out of which the niche is defined as the source of radical innovation. The MLP is informed by a combination of structuration and quasi-evolutionary theories. Instead, the suggested network approach draws on relational concepts of agency and the distributed nature of innovation. Unlike the nested hierarchy of the MLP, sociotechnical networks are flat representations of reality. Yet, the emphasis remains on long-term, systemic innovation. Niches and regimes are viewed as networks of organisational and technological actors enacting practices. Sociotechnical change emerges through diverse forms of interaction between incumbent and emergent organisations and technologies. The MLP levels can be identified as retrospective constructions rather than as the starting point of analysis. In addition, the concept of societal functions is problematised to illustrate how the boundaries of sociotechnical systems are evasive.
On the basis of a relational approach, Social Network Analysis (SNA) techniques are used for the visualisation and analysis of the emergent electronic book innovation network and its links to incumbent actors in the print-on-paper regime. The depiction of sociotechnical change in the form of networks can contribute to transitions research as innovation concepts become expressed through SNA measures. It has been argued that a balance between diversity and homogeneity is required for the emergence and diffusion of innovation. Network heterogeneity measures can help assess the level of interaction between homogeneous and heterogeneous actors and thus indicate factors that enable or inhibit innovation. One of the main questions in transitions research is to identify patterns of sociotechnical change. The MLP transitions pathways are defined by the nature and timing of interaction between levels. In a network perspective of transitions, patterns can be identified through network structure. Network substructures on the basis of cohesion can be indicative of potential sociotechnical trajectories as actors located in cohesive areas of a network are more likely to share similar goals and understanding of innovation. The role of pivotal actors in transitions has also been addressed in the literature. There are a number of SNA measures that identify actors occupying gatekeeping positions and the relative importance of gatekeeping roles in the context of different networks.

Item Type: Conference or Conference Paper (Paper)
Additional Information: [1] The author presented a paper on September 2nd at 13.30-15.30 in the Faculty of Law - Room C, as Session 1: Theoretical perspectives on transitions. The sesion was Chaired by Lars Coenen - Conference Track 37: System Innovations and Transitions to Sustainability.
Uncontrolled Keywords: sociotechnical networks, sustainability transitions
Subjects: T Technology > T Technology (General)
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Business > Department of Systems Management & Strategy
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Last Modified: 24 Jun 2020 15:48

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