A Co-Evolutionary and Socio-Technical Analysis
Chapter 1: Introduction
THE TOPIC OF ANALYSIS System Innovation This book is about transitions from one socio-technical system to another. It is about system innovation, which includes but is wider than product and process innovation. Socio-technical systems can exist at diﬀerent levels. In organisation and management theory the focus is at the level of ﬁrms. The interdependence of the social and technical systems of organisation was one of the core insights of the socio-technical systems tradition associated with the Tavistock School (Trist and Murray, 1990, 1993; Emery, 1993; Trist et al., 1997; Griﬃth and Dougherty, 2001). This tradition highlights that human beings and machines are joined together in industrial workplace settings, for example, coalmines (Trist and Bamforth, 1951). In this book, however, the focus is on a diﬀerent level, namely, that of societal functions such as transportation, communication, housing, energy supply, recreation and health care. Technologies and artefacts play an important role in fulﬁlling these societal functions. Ships, cars and aeroplanes are necessary for transportation; telephones and the Internet make long-distance communication possible. But technologies do not fulﬁl societal functions on their own. Artefacts by themselves have no power; they do nothing. Only in association with human agency, social structures and organisations do artefacts fulﬁl functions. In real-life situations (for example, organisations, ﬁrms, houses) we never encounter artefacts per se, but rather artefacts in context (Fleck, 1993, 2000). For the analysis of functioning artefacts in context, the combination of ‘the social’ and ‘the technical’ is the appropriate...