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Understanding appropriate technological choice requires that you learn a basic vocabulary. This section presents short, informal descriptions of “appropriate,” “technology,” “capability,” “social construction of technology,” and “technological determinism.” At the end, you will find a media file for a Jeopardy to help you learn these terms.


Technology : As was said in the previous section, a technology is more than just a physical object. It is a device activated within a network of social relations called a socio-technical system. (See below for more on socio-technical systems or STSs.) Technologies are much more than value neutral tools; a technological object or artifact can become an extension of the human body, a prosthesis, that magnifies, focuses, intensifies, shapes, channels, and constrains human actions and activities. Taken by themselves they are incomplete and indeterminate; enacted within a socio-technical system, they accomplish human activities.

Socio-technical system

Socio-technical System . Determining whether a technology is appropriate requires close attention to the socio-technical background which forms a system, a “complex environment of interacting components, together with the networks of relationships among them.” According to Huff, a socio-technical system is “an intellectual tool to help us recognize patterns in the way technology is used and produced.” For example, Huff has his computing students write “Social Impact Statements” to outline the impact a computing technology would have on the socio-technical system (STS) in which it is being integrated. Students triangulate their impact claims through day-in-the-life scenarios, participatory observation, and surveys; any claim made on the impact of a technology has to be substantiated through three different methods of observation (in private conversations).

Socio-technical systems, thus, exhibit several characteristics.

  • STS analysis helps us understand how occupational and professional practice is shaped and constrained by different surrounding environments.
  • Socio-technical systems are first and foremost systems. While they are composed of discrete parts, these are embedded in a network of relations and interact with one another. Hence, STS description requires systemic or ecological thinking; a STS must be approached as a whole which is not reducible to the sum of its parts
  • The different components of a STS can include hardware, software, physical surroundings, people/groups/roles, procedures, laws/statutes/regulations, and information systems. This list of distinguishable components varies according to context and purpose. These distinguishable components are, nevertheless, inseparable from one another. Repeating the previous point, STSs are, first and foremost, systems .
  • STSs embody or embed values . This makes it possible to prepare Social Impact Statements that identify and locate embedded values, chart out potential conflicts, and recommend system adjustments to remediate these. STS analysis, thus, adds a dimension to the determination of the appropriateness of a given technology by raising the question of whether its incorporation into a specific STS leads to value conflicts or resolves value vulnerabilities.
  • STSs change due to internal value issues as well as issues stemming from their interactions with other STSs. STS changes are directional in that they trace out trajectories or paths of change. Thus, another test of appropriate technology is whether its integration into a STS places that system on a positive or negative trajectory of change .
  • To repeat a point made just above, STS analysis employs systems or ecological thinking . Just as important as the properties of the parts that compose a socio-technical system are the relations between these parts and the ways in which they interact. These relations and interactions give rise to properties that STSs as wholes display but which cannot be found when analyzing the constituent parts in isolation from one another. Another way of putting this is that STSs require holistic think that is markedly different from what sociologists call “methodological individualism.”
  • Werhane et al. in Alleviating Poverty provide an insightful account of systems and systems thinking. They see this as necessary in building and analyzing alliances between stakeholders devoted to diminishing poverty.

Questions & Answers

Is there any normative that regulates the use of silver nanoparticles?
Damian Reply
what king of growth are you checking .?
What fields keep nano created devices from performing or assimulating ? Magnetic fields ? Are do they assimilate ?
Stoney Reply
why we need to study biomolecules, molecular biology in nanotechnology?
Adin Reply
yes I'm doing my masters in nanotechnology, we are being studying all these domains as well..
what school?
biomolecules are e building blocks of every organics and inorganic materials.
anyone know any internet site where one can find nanotechnology papers?
Damian Reply
sciencedirect big data base
Introduction about quantum dots in nanotechnology
Praveena Reply
what does nano mean?
Anassong Reply
nano basically means 10^(-9). nanometer is a unit to measure length.
do you think it's worthwhile in the long term to study the effects and possibilities of nanotechnology on viral treatment?
Damian Reply
absolutely yes
how to know photocatalytic properties of tio2 nanoparticles...what to do now
Akash Reply
it is a goid question and i want to know the answer as well
characteristics of micro business
for teaching engĺish at school how nano technology help us
Do somebody tell me a best nano engineering book for beginners?
s. Reply
there is no specific books for beginners but there is book called principle of nanotechnology
what is fullerene does it is used to make bukky balls
Devang Reply
are you nano engineer ?
fullerene is a bucky ball aka Carbon 60 molecule. It was name by the architect Fuller. He design the geodesic dome. it resembles a soccer ball.
what is the actual application of fullerenes nowadays?
That is a great question Damian. best way to answer that question is to Google it. there are hundreds of applications for buck minister fullerenes, from medical to aerospace. you can also find plenty of research papers that will give you great detail on the potential applications of fullerenes.
what is the Synthesis, properties,and applications of carbon nano chemistry
Abhijith Reply
Mostly, they use nano carbon for electronics and for materials to be strengthened.
is Bucky paper clear?
carbon nanotubes has various application in fuel cells membrane, current research on cancer drug,and in electronics MEMS and NEMS etc
so some one know about replacing silicon atom with phosphorous in semiconductors device?
s. Reply
Yeah, it is a pain to say the least. You basically have to heat the substarte up to around 1000 degrees celcius then pass phosphene gas over top of it, which is explosive and toxic by the way, under very low pressure.
Do you know which machine is used to that process?
how to fabricate graphene ink ?
for screen printed electrodes ?
What is lattice structure?
s. Reply
of graphene you mean?
or in general
in general
Graphene has a hexagonal structure
On having this app for quite a bit time, Haven't realised there's a chat room in it.
what is biological synthesis of nanoparticles
Sanket Reply
how did you get the value of 2000N.What calculations are needed to arrive at it
Smarajit Reply
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Source:  OpenStax, The environments of the organization. OpenStax CNX. Feb 22, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11447/1.9
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