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Technology and the Market

Demand, Users and Innovation

Edited by Rod Coombs, Ken Green, Albert Richards and Vivien Walsh

The interplay between demand from the market, the role of users in shaping that demand, and the way in which these factors influence the innovation process has always been a complex one. This forward thinking book examines this interplay from a technological change perspective. The contributors explore the potential for rapprochement between economics, sociological and other social science disciplines in considering the allocation of resources and the making of decisions about technological change. The papers within this book represent a judicious blend of theory and empirical research and look at a broad range of innovations, markets and technologies in medicine, agricultural and food production, services and IT. Technology and the Market raises the question of the many ‘visible hands’ that are involved in linking technology and the market together.
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Chapter 4: Reconceptualiszing the user(s) of - and in - tehcnological innovation: the case of vaccines in the United States

Dale A. Rose


4. Reconceptualizing the user(s) of – and in – technological innovation: the case of vaccines in the United States1 Dale A. Rose Researchers, interested in characterizing the innovation process, can shake their heads sadly at the realization that ‘locus off innovation activity’ is yet another variable to contend with. (Von Hippel, 1976) INTRODUCTION As measured by deaths prevented, vaccines are – collectively – the most effective medical technology ever developed in the history of humankind (Plotkin and Plotkin, 1994, p. 1). Among the vast universe of technological artefacts, then, ‘the’ vaccine clearly appears to have been a ‘success’. For a number of years scholars, managers and analysts of both technology and business have pondered over the processes through which ‘successful’ inventions and innovations such as vaccines come about. Success or not, these processes, collectively understood as defining in large part what constitutes technological innovation, are now conceptualized as in some manner functioning within a system of defined technological opportunities on the one hand, and demand for new and/or improved ‘things’ on the other. In fairly recent years, more and more has been said both about the user in (processes of) technological innovation, and the user of specific technological innovations. However, framing the discussion of the user in this way has some problems. First, to identify ‘the’ user as such disguises the heterogeneity of users, plural, most of whom engage knowingly or unknowingly to some extent in processes of innovation. They bring to those processes a multiplicity of perspectives, ideas, social...

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