The Co-evolution of Influence and Technology
New Horizons in the Economics of Innovation series
Chapter 4: The Design of Data Network Systems: Competing and Collaborating Technologies
4.1 INTRODUCTION We have reviewed the paradigm of a technological system’s design and the governance of telecommunications in Chapters 2 and 3. Most technology inventions result from problem solving rather than being pure chance. The design of technologies is shaped by negotiations among the different interests of social groups, and closure is the outcome of a process involving uneven power relationships between actors that also reﬂect economic and social structure. This chapter applies this view in an analysis of the struggle between proponents of alternative computer networking architectures. The advent and development of computer systems led to the invention of computer networking technologies, in particular packet switching technology. Packet switching technology has different technological and economic characteristics from circuit switching technology, which was applied for the traditional voice network. The Internet system started as an experimental network, which implemented for the ﬁrst time a radical invention, packet switching technology, in a large-scale project. The emergence of packet switched data networks provoked a battle for control of their development between network operators and computer manufacturers and for control of the network between telecommunication operators and advanced users, for example computer scientists. In this analysis, the expert networks of these social groups are known as telecommunications communities, computer communities and Internet communities, as discussed in Chapter 1 with respect to epistemic communities. This chapter looks at competition between different technological systems in the development of computer networks, reﬂecting the interests of their system builders, focusing on the public data network...
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