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Hypermedia Online Publishing: the Transformation of the Scholarly Journal

2.5.6 Social construction of technology

The Social Construction of Technology (SCOT) approach [Bijker et al., 1987] proposes that for any given situation a number of technological artefacts arise. Initially there is great flexibility of design with many alternative technologies being available for adoption. Over time, a process of selection and winnowing out takes place. Finally, large constituencies within the users of the technology generally agree on the purpose, meaning and physical form of the technology and what Bijker and Pinch call closure takes place.

This framework has been applied to bakelite [Bijker, 1987], brewing [Hård, 1994], and the development of the bicycle [Bijker et al., 1987]. Nancy Fjällbrant has argued that one can successfully apply this analysis to the development of the scholarly journal [Fjällbrant, 1997].

It is quite possible to see how such an analysis could also be applied to the current move towards (perhaps temporary) closure of delivery and presentation technologies in the domain of parallel print and electronic delivery journals [Hitchcock et al., 1997]. This is an initially tempting prospect. However, closer examination reveals a number of similarities between SCOT and the evolutionary models discussed already. The process of developing many alternative technologies is very reminiscent of the adaptive radiations of organisms into ecological niches so well described by Stephen Jay Gould in his description of the Burgess Shale [Gould, 1989]. The process of closure is then analogous to the selection of one best-adapted organism. Because of these parallels and because of the greater predictive power of the ecological model, SCOT was not selected.

Last modified: Monday, 18-Sep-2017 03:28:37 AEST

© Andrew Treloar, 2001. * *