Demand, Users and Innovation
Edited by Rod Coombs, Ken Green, Albert Richards and Vivien Walsh
This book contains papers that were presented at the ﬁfth in a series of biennial conferences that brings together scholars working on technical change from different disciplinary perspectives. The theme of the conference was Demand, Markets, Users and Innovation: Sociological and Economic Approaches. Over the last thirty years, the economics of technological change has discussed the relative importance of ‘demand-pull’ and ‘discovery-push’ as prime-movers of innovation; historians of science have modiﬁed internalist accounts of the development of scientiﬁc theories to bring in external social, economic and political inﬂuences; and in the sociology of science, technology and innovation, theories of social shaping or social construction have challenged technological determinism. More recently, various approaches have proposed ‘hybrid’ theories that allow demand-pull and discovery-push, or social, economic, political and technical forces, to interact, or, in the case of actor-network theory, have attempted to cut across the debate by following human and non-human actors and privileging neither. If an innovation is something that is both technologically novel and has neither been the object of a commercial transaction or in some other way has become incorporated into the social fabric, then (by deﬁnition) it will not be successful if there is no demand for it – if users do not want it. Understanding user needs is now seen as one of the important factors in the success of innovation and it is one of the raisons d’être of market research. But while we know how important demand, or understanding user needs,...