The adoption of the QWERTY-keyboard was not just a productivity enhancing invention, but was also introduced to increase control over the workers and lower wages.Those two examples show that innovation is a process in which political and social factors matter.
These are among many technological innovations analysed by Andreas Reinstaller, a PhD candidate at UNU-MERIT -- a joint research and training centre of United Nations University, and Maastricht University in the Netherlands. Reinstaller's research examined the role played by status groups, political groups and power relations in technology choices. Reinstaller will defend his thesis at Maastricht University on 14 December 2006.
A detailed re-examination of the famous case study on the introduction of the QWERTY-keyboard for typewriters shows that it was not introduced purely to increase productivity. The new keyboard simplified administrative work so that it could be divided up differently. Part of the work could now be done by less trained personnel, which put downward pressure on wages for administrative workers.
Reinstaller also analyses how status groups influence consumer patterns. Industrialization in the 18th and 19th century led to a larger upper class with more disposable income. This in turn contributed to an upsurge in consumption and the birth of consumerism as we know it, as the lower classes tried to emulate the consumption patterns of the well to do.
In recent times, special interest groups have successfully adopted public campaigns to disseminate their ideas and visions to the greater public. In some cases, this has led to significant behavioural changes among consumers, who through their demands and choices have managed to affect downstream decisions about which technologies should be adopted, even when these are economically (and technically) inferior to alternatives. Reinstaller cites the case of Greenpeace, which was able to create such a frenzy among Swedish and German consumers that a third of all Swedish and even some Finnish pulp mills switched to totally chlorine free (tcf) bleaching. This despite the fact that it was less developed technologically and therefore more expensive than the alternative elemental chlorine free process, which was cheaper, more technically advanced, and from an environmental point of view almost identical to tcf. Reinstaller argues that Greenpeace ultimately succeeded in influencing producers to opt for the less economically viable choice. The situation in the US, where the lobby group had less influence, was quite different.
Through these and other examples Reinstaller demonstrates that the adoption of new products and new technologies is not always a matter of better technological performance, but one where social competition and power relations clearly play a role.
Andreas Reinstaller will defend his PhD thesis titled "Social structures and the innovation process: Their role in the demand of firms and consumers" on Thursday 14 December 2006 14.00 hrs at the Aula, Minderbroedersberg 4-6, Maastricht.
Wangu Mwangi | alfa
New population data provide insight on aging, migration
31.08.2016 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
PRB projects world population rising 33 percent by 2050 to nearly 10 billion
25.08.2016 | Population Reference Bureau
Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion
Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...
Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.
"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...
In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.
A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...
By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.
"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...
COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.
In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...
14.10.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
12.10.2016 | Event News
24.10.2016 | Earth Sciences
24.10.2016 | Life Sciences
24.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy