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Sociotechnical debate

Sociotechnical debate

 Apply the sociotechnical debate to the emergence of two technologies – one developed before
1920 and one after. What are the implications of your analysis for our understanding of

technological innovations?

The module Information System introduces the student to the use and management of information
systems in varied organizational settings. It adopts a social science and a management perspective to

appreciate the history, function and impact of Information Systems.

The Technology I choose:
Printing press (1450)
Internet (1990s)

Since the reception of technology, there has been socio techno debate emanating from
different perceptions of people. Socio techno debate comes as a result of different orientations of


Information system
people towards a certain technology. When a technology makes its way to the society, there is
usually a confusion of the benefits and the harmful effects of the technology, (Vaast, Davidson &
Mattson, 2013). This aspect leads to occupation of different positions when it comes to the
effects of such a technology to the society, and to a greater extent, a debate on whether the
technology should be absorbed or not. This paper discusses application of socio techno debate on
emergence of printing press as well as the internet. Implication of the analysis is given in
understanding the technological innovations.
Printing press

Technology is one of the controversial aspects in the society. When a technology
emergences, it comes with mixed reactions in as far as its reception is concerned. The society
receives a technology with mixed reactions depending with their perception especially in terms
of the advantages as well as the demerits associated with it, (Baek, Meroni, & Manzini, 2015).
Before the emergence of printing press, no one had imagined the ease that such a technology
would bring to the society.

On the other hand, there are some demerits of such technology, which still had not been
imagined. With the emergence of the printing press technology, there came with it the socio
technical debate on its acceptance or resistance, (Scarbrough & Corbett,1992). As it is with
emergence of technologies and their reception in the society, there was debate on whether the
printing press as new technology should be fully accepted and availed to the whole society or
there should be limitations.

The printing press came with a lot of advantages in terms of making work easier. It is
very difficult to even imagine how tiring it was to make many copies of documents before the


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emergence of the printing press technology, (Grint & Woolgar, 1997). With manual duplication
of documents, there was bound to be many errors and it was almost entirely impossible to
produce many documents with the same information in the required clarity. With the absence of
printing press, there was wastage of time and also loss of clarity of documents. But with its
emergence, there was all possibilities of saving time as well as producing exactly similar
documents hence avoidance of loss of prudence of document.

However, as is always with technology, there was the other side emerging from socio
technical orientations. As earlier indicated, the socio technical debate emanates from a
consideration of the demerits of a technology. Every technology usually has its negative side,
(Eisenstein, 2002). As for the printing press, there were the issues associated with it such as a lot
of noise. Consideration of the noise as an issue in the emergence of printing press may be
considered as trivial, but it is one of the issues that led to the debate on acceptability of printing
press, (Reig-Otero, Edwards-Schachter, Feliú-Mingarro & Fernández-de-Lucio, 2014).

The socio technical debate over printing press was fuelled by future focus of the younger
generation at the time, which was foreseeing a better mode of doing the work with more
efficiency and with little or no noise. A consideration of the cost of the printing press technology
equipment was also a fuelling factor of the debate. In as far as some part of the society was
concerned, it was not worthwhile to consider acceptance of the printing press due to the high cost
of the equipment especially in comparison to the less need of printing in the time. However, in
the absence of other better method, the printing press was retained for a while until emergence of
the more efficient technology.



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It has been argued that; no new technology has brought socio technical debate as long
and strong as the internet. Emergence of the internet came with many facets that influenced its
reception in the society. As it is usual with every technology, the positive side is seen first. The
negative side of a technology is usually there, right from the time a technology emerges in the
society, but it is not noticed right away. It is after a while that the society notices the negative
side of a technology, and there the socio technical debate begins, (Brown & Duguid, 2000).

With the internet, there was first full acceptance of the technology with little
consideration of the negative side that could be detrimental to the society. The internet came as a
great relief to the society especially in terms of easing communication, (MacKenzie & Wajcman,
1999). For instance, bulk information could be sent from one place to the other using the
internet, such as by use of email. Internet has enabled people in the society to share information
in a more efficient manner. Here two aspects come into play.

Due to the efficiency of the internet, it is possible to share bulk information. For instance,
many online books could be sent through the internet. This kind of endeavor would not be
possible if the information was to be sent manually. There is also the issue of saving time. The
internet makes it possible for information to be shared within a very short period of time,
(Suchman, 2007). With a click of button, it becomes possible to share so much information. The
divergence of the modes of using the internet added the advantages of this technology/For
instance, it is not limited to the computer. It is possible to make use of the internet through other
simpler and cheaper devices such the phones. This diversification enables people in the society
to make use of the internet in a more efficient manner.


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However, there are varied disadvantages associated with the internet. It is such
disadvantages that brought the socio technical debate on internet, (Jonhs, 2002). For instance, the
internet was associated with addiction. When one gets to use the internet for long periods of time
each day, there is the danger of getting addicted to it. A person gets to feel very much
uncomfortable when they happen to miss the sessions of the internet.

Many people, including internet users, take the issue of internet addiction as a light
matter, (Lewis, Mengersen, Buys, 2015). What they do not realize is that internet addiction is a
very critical condition. A person could get addicted to the internet such that; to reverse the
condition, hospitalization is required. It becomes advisable to people to limit the usage of the
internet so as to avoid addiction. It is such conditions that bring in the socio technical debate.
There is debate on whether an entity that is capable of bringing such degrees of addiction should
be acceptable in the society.

Another ill associated with internet is the cost. Supply of the internet comes at a cost,
(Tiropanis, Hall, Crowcroft et al, 2015). At times, it is costly to use the internet especially in
situations where one needs to make use of it for a longer period of time. A consideration of the
cost of usage of the internet has led to some part of the society being of the opinion that internet
is not of a positive impact and therefore should be done away with.

At times, the cost of the internet itself is not the issue of concern but rather the cost of the
devices for facilitating internet usage, (Clegg et al, 2008). For instance, computers, which are
meant to facilitate usage of internet are not cheap devices. The phones that are capable of
anchoring internet usage are neither cheap. As such, some part of the society feel that the internet
is not useful especially in ruining ones economic realms. Even when it comes to organizational


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level, there has been misgivings when it comes to adoption of usage of the internet due to the
initial cost involved especially in installing the required devices.

Another ill of the internet that has fuelled the socio technical debate on this technology
involves fraud and cheating, (Facer, 2012). There has been online cheating whereby; through the
internet, people lie about their real identity and end up making people hook up with them only
for them to realize that they are not the real people they had portrayed in the internet. With such
lies, people have travelled even long distances to meet new friends only for them to receive the
shock of their lives when they realize that they have been duped.
Analysis of socio technical debate point to the realization that; every technology comes
with its merits and demerits. It is the merits that are first and easily observed. With time people
come to realize the demerits of the technology, (Stratford, 2015). It is at such point that the
society creates the socio technical debate whereby; some part feels that the new technology
should be embraced due to the positive side of it, while the rest of the society feels that the new
technology should be abandoned.

The debate by itself is not a bad thing. However, it is crucial that the society looks for
ways of mitigating the ills associated with a technology. For instance, it would be viable if the
society would be educated on the ills of technology such as internet addiction. When the society
gets aware of internet addiction, it becomes possible for them to limit their usage of the internet
such that they do not happen to be addicted, (Bouwman et al, 2008).


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It is crucial for the society to come up with ways of mitigating the ills associated with a
technology, (Newell, et al (2009). For instance, for the noise that was associated with printing
press technology, usage of asbestos went a long way in ensuring that the noise did not go beyond
the walls of the building housing the technology equipment.
It is also crucial for the society to be well enlightened on means of curbing the ills of
technology instead of doing away with the technology. For instance, to mitigate the high cost
associated with internet, it is crucial that the society is advised on usage of cheaper devices of
internet connection such as phones instead of computers. The technology of shared internet
should also be embraced to curb the high cost.


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Baek, J. S., Meroni, A., & Manzini, E. (2015). A socio-technical approach to design for
community resilience: A framework for analysis and design goal forming. Design
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Bouwman H. et al (2008) Information & Communication Technology in Organizations, SAGE

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Clegg, S. et al (2008) Managing and Organisations: an Introduction to theory and practice, 2nd
edition, London: Sage

Eisenstein, E. (2002) ‘An Unacknowledge Revolution Revisited’, The American Historical
Review, vol.107, no.1, pp. 87-105

Facer, K. (2012). Taking the 21st century seriously: young people, education and socio-technical
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Grint, K. & Woolgar, S. (1997) The machine at work: technology, work, and organization.
Cambridge, UK; Malden, MA, Polity Press?; Published in the USA by Blackwell.

Jonhs, A. (2002) ‘How to Acknowledge a Revolution’, The American Historical Review, vol.
107, no. 1, pp. 106-125

Kallinikos, J. (2010) Governing Through Technology: Information Artefacts and Social Practice.
Palgrave Macmillan


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Lewis, J., Mengersen, K., Buys, L., Vine, D., Bell, J., Morris, P., & Ledwich, G. (2015). Systems
Modelling of the Socio-Technical Aspects of Residential Electricity Use and Network
Peak Demand. Plos ONE, 10(7), 1-21. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0134086

MacKenzie, D. & Wajcman, J. (1999) The Social Shaping of Technology. 2nd ed. Open
University Press

Newell, S. et al (2009) Managing Knowledge Work and Innovation, 2nd edition. Palgrave
Reig-Otero, Y., Edwards-Schachter, M., Feliú-Mingarro, C., & Fernández-de-Lucio, I. (2014).
Generation and Diffusion of Innovations in a District Innovation System: The Case of
Ink-Jet Printing. Journal Of Technology Management & Innovation, 9(2), 56-76.

Scarbrough, H. & Corbett, M. (1992) Technology and Organization: power, meaning and design.

Stratford, E. (2015). A critical analysis of the impact of Island Studies Journal: retrospect and
prospect. Island Studies Journal, 10(2), 139-162.

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(2015). Network Science, Web Science, and Internet Science. Communications Of The
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Vaast, E., Davidson, E. J., & Mattson, T. (2013). TALKING ABOUT TECHNOLOGY: THE
Quarterly, 37(4), 1069-A2.

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