Societal Consequences of Large Technical Systems: A Pluralist Approach

Miscellaneous Contributions
By Erik Van der Vleuten, Anne Breteau

Although the enormous societal importance of the development of infrastructural technologies has often been cited, sociohistorical technology studies have rarely sought to grasp these societal influences in their wide variety. The first part of this paper argues the legitimacy of asking the research question of influences explicitly, and suggest that — given the diversity of the topic — it may best be answered by juxtaposing a variety of analytical frameworks. The second section reviews relevant approaches and concepts for such study in the research field of “large technical systems.” Finally, the third section proposes to combine these in a particular pluralist framework of analysis, designed to connect analytically four layers of increasingly indirect societal “effects” of infrastructural technologies.

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