Raqib Annotations

How will your own research build from, counter and compare with this text?

Tuesday, May 14, 2019 - 7:07am

The socio-technical system methodology and analytical tool helps to rectify the issues aroused out of normative viewpoint upon technology. It helps me to understand how labour is subordinated by social and political relations, then technology. He argues that it is not the technology which determines society, but a society with its political and cultural implications decides technology and its inventions. This paper also gives an excellent insight on how technology is not something new to modern society,  but every society possesses its own technology, which is neither superior or inferior when we analyse it through and as a socio-technical system.

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Describe at least three of the text’s themes or topics that are of general interest to STS scholars.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019 - 7:06am

                   I.            The universal conception of human technological activity. A Better understanding of socio-technical system, by negating the overemphasis on necessity and other myths of standard view gives us a universal conception on human technological activities and helps us to understand the technologically mediated, socially coordinated labour and work". Once we do so, we can begin to construct hypothesis about the universals of human technology-universals that highlight what is distinctly human about activities as diverse as making stone tools and launching space vehicles".

                II.             Alternative epistemology towards technology: "The sociotechnical systems of the Machine Age do differ from its pre-industrial predecessors, but the Standard View grossly exaggerates these differences". For example historians of technology distinguishes these two binaries into a phase with the application of science and technology and other without it. But it is a fact that whatever modern society achieved as technology is not derived from the sciences. But the technology enhanced, codified and contributed to the organisation of science and its knowledge system ().

             III.            Social coordination of labour and secondary role of technology; various social factors such as rituals, beliefs, cultural meanings etc defines an artefact and its embedded technology.  The labour is influenced more by socio-economic factors than the technology.

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Describe the main literatures that the text draws on and contributes to.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019 - 7:05am

        i.            The theory of technological drama: It is a discourse of technological "statements" and "counterstatements". There are three processes, technological regularization, technological adjustment, and technological reconstitution involved in this discourse.

      ii.             The literature on socio-technical systems: The socio-technical systems understanding is considered as a more inclusive method and tool. The roots of this can be found in the writings of Thomas Hughes. The author quotes Hughes (45) who "shows how Edison sought to supply electric lighting at a price competitive with natural gas (economic), to obtain the support of key politicians (political), to cut down the cost of transmitting power (technical), and to find a bulb filament of sufficiently high resistance (scientific)".

    iii.            History of artefacts and technology: The author contests the idea of necessity as the meaning and logic behind any artefact we decode. He argues that it’s false to understand that there is a unilinear progression of simple to complex tools and evolution of technologies. It is our perception around an antique tool, that we transates as its usage. He substantiates this by arguing that "an enormous amount of human knowledge about building socio-technical systems has been utterly and irretrievably lost" in the history. He also pleads that according to the sociotechnical systems model, no such thing as a "traditional society" exists. Every human society is a world in the process of becoming, in which people are engaged in the active technological elaboration, appropriation, and modification of artefacts as the means of coming to know themselves and of coordinating labour to sustain their lives".


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Describe at least three ways that the main argument is supported.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019 - 7:03am

       I.            Problematizing the standard view of technology: The desocialisation done by common sense Modernism and the standard view technology reduces the overall creativity and aesthetics of the the relationship between social structures and artefacts (products of technology) same way, the Standard View also "dissocializes the meaning of technological artefacts", by reducing the meaning of it into its alleged function, where cultural and social meanings are considered superficial.

    II.             According to Binford (1965), there are two dimensions for an artefact. "The primary, referring to the instrumental dimension related to the artefact’s function, and the secondary, related to the artefact’s social meaning and symbolism". By critiquing the over-emphasis upon human needs and necessity emerging from his or her natural instinct, the author argues that it is culture, not nature that defines such needs and necessity.

 III.            According to the author, a new way of understanding called socio-technical system helps we navigate through the complexities emerging from the conventional approach.   This idea of the sociotechnical system stems from the work of Thomas Hughes on the rise of modem electrical power systems. “According to Hughes, those who seek to develop new technologies must concern themselves not only with techniques and artefacts but they must also engineer the social, economic, legal, scientific, and political context of the technology."

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What is the main argument, narrative and affect of this text?

Tuesday, May 14, 2019 - 7:02am

By refuting the epistemology of the standard view of technology, the author emphasises the importance of social coordination of labour in relation to technology. He gives an alternative viewpoint antithetical to a normative, masculine, ethnocentric, standard view of technology.

"Sociotechnical system, in contrast (to a standard narration of technology), refers to the distinctive technological activity that stems from the linkage of techniques and material culture to the social coordination of labour. The proper and indispensable subjects of social anthropology of technology, therefore, include all three: techniques, sociotechnical systems, and material culture"( ). He asserts that this methodological and analytical tool to understand the technology open up the scrolls of technology, as we perceive in common sense, technological intervention is not new in the modern industrial society. He argues that the logic behind any artefacts is determined by its two functional aspects, one is its technological aspect and another is the socio-cultural factors 

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What three (or more) quotes capture the critical import of the text?

Tuesday, May 14, 2019 - 7:00am

"[T]he history and sociology of technology, and the emergent field is known as science and technology studies (STS). Collectively, these fields, without much anthropological involvement, have developed a concept, the sociotechnical system concept (48) that refuses to deny the sociality of human technological activity"

"[O]ne reason for the rapid advance of STS is its refusal to accept the myths of science and technology at face value. Mulkay (74), for example, shows that sociology's refusal to develop a sociological analysis of scientific knowledge stems from sociologists' uncritical acceptance of a mythic Standard View of science. I suggest that the achievement of truly social anthropology of technology likewise requires extending anthropology's recent productive venture into reflexivity"

"[S]sociotechnical systems may very well include ritual components with explicit productive goals that we find "false," such as enhancing the fertility of the earth; but to ignore them is to miss the crucial role they play in the coordination of labour. I would, therefore, argue that the social anthropology of technology, against all common sense, should adopt a principle of absolute impartiality with respect to whether a given activity "works" (i.e. is "technical") or "doesn't work" (i.e. is "magicoreligious"); only if we adopt such impartiality do the social dimensions of sociotechnical activity come to the fore"


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