Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Social factors matter in technological innovation

30.11.2006
Action groups like Greenpeace influenced the adoption of a chlorine bleaching process in paper making that was inferior to the alternative elemental chlorine free paper making process.

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
Further information:
http://www.merit.unu.edu
http://www.merit.unu.edu/seminars/docs/20061214_reinstaller.pdf

More articles from Social Sciences:

nachricht Amazingly flexible: Learning to read in your thirties profoundly transforms the brain
26.05.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Kognitions- und Neurowissenschaften

nachricht Fixating on faces
26.01.2017 | California Institute of Technology

All articles from Social Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can the immune system be boosted against Staphylococcus aureus by delivery of messenger RNA?

Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.

Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

How herpesviruses win the footrace against the immune system

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

Water forms 'spine of hydration' around DNA, group finds

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

First Juno science results supported by University of Leicester's Jupiter 'forecast'

26.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>