Technological innovation in historical perspective


  • Renato Giannetti



This essay reviews the recent research traditions on technological change in a historical perspective. We distinguish between two ways to conceptualize technical change. They can be reconducted to the current discussion on scientifid method. The first one is close to the structuralist tradition and can be summarized under the technological paradigm tradition. This extends to technological change the Kuhnian view of scientific change as a sequence of paradigms. It includes Dosi's original technological trajectories and the milder Hughes sociotechnical systems. The second tradition represents technical change as a social construction. This approach originally highlightened the procedures and determinants of scientists' behaviour and the limitations of the so-called scientific method. These developments gave construction of technologies, asf.e., in Callon. These approaches can usefully converge in historical research if the sociological approach renounces to the extreme view of technology as a "rethorics". In this sense we suggest that the empirical work of Vicenti and Constant goes on the right way