For over three decades now historians of technology have been exploring the dynamics of technological change. Unravelling the paths by which new technologies are discovered and implemented has proved to be an intellectually engaging enterprise that has largely sustained the discipline. Much of the fascination with the process of technological change results from its complexity. On the other hand, this complexity has discouraged the development of more general approaches to the subject. Lacking explicit alternatives, most historians of technology have fallen back upon a linear model of technological change which links invention, development and commercialization in a sequential progression. Because the last two steps depend on the first one (invention), it is invention that has received the most scrutiny by historians. In fact, the concept of invention is tightly bound up with the linear model. Below it will be argued that the use of the linear model has distorted our understanding of technological change and that an alternative model, a Darwinian evolutionary one, more accurately expresses the complexity that emerges from the narrative histories.
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- Thinking about Technological Change: Linear and Evolutionary Models
John K. Smith
- Palgrave Macmillan UK
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