Social Construct of Technology

Many technologies or innovations continue to be shaped based on the different problems and solutions users of a product have. For example high wheel bycicles were perceived as not suitable for women but tricycles were instead. That is because women were perceived as the weaker gender and less energy was needed to use a trycicle then a high weel bycicle. Later on the safety bike developed, because it was suitable to satisfy most users (men and women), which then turned into the dominant innovation, or more specific “artefact”.

Another example is the bra that has been shaped by different societal problems and needs. Before the bra, woman were wearing corsets, mainly made of metal. In World War 2 more metals were needed to build for ships and more women were needed to help out in factories. While wearing a corset during factory work became umcofortable to wear it also took up too much metal. A solution was a bralette. From thereon, history unfolded around the bra as we know it today.

SCOT more specific

SCOT illustrates how users and anti-users shape innovation. Doing so, a problem (innovation/technical problem) is only a problem if the group (users) defines it as one. In order for an innovation (an artifact) to be successful, all members of a group should share the same set of meaning attached to the artifact for it to become innovative. There is no best way as it depends on the social group of the artifact. Each member of a group may have different needs for the artifact and if all these needs are met, the artifact is likely to become innovative.  

On the right side you can see how the artefact (bycicle) is shaping based on different user problem and needs

How can SCOT help me innovate?

Some products that we are using today, or simply the way we interact (way of doing something) are based on problems and needs given to a product or an interaction in the past. Often the meaning or the social construct given to the product or interaction (way of doing something), is outdated and therefore needs to change. Such an example is the linear economy that focusses on fast production and consumption as oppose to the circular economy that should slow down the economy. Part of the CE agenda is also to promote functionality and durability as oppose to simply promoting the need to buy a certain product.

SCOT can hereby help do understand the origin of a product, why it was shaped and what purpose it provides today. It can help to understand, how such a product is promoted today and what changes can be done to promote its functionality over other reasons, i.e. promotion of e-bike for people who need electric support or promotion functionality in fashion over the aesthetical appeal only. Is the bra really needed for all women? and if yes, what function does it provide? Could it be promoted differently so that less bras are purchased but rather bras with a function and high quality (i.e. breast feeding mothers, woman with large breasts and back-pain etc. ) ? What about other products that we consume ?