Of Bicycles, Bakelites, and Bulbs

Of Bicycles, Bakelites, and Bulbs : Toward a Theory of Sociotechnical Change

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This book crystallizes and extends the important work Wiebe Bijker has done in the last decade to found a full-scale theory of sociotechnical change that describes where technologies come from and how societies deal with them. Of Bicycles, Bakelites, and Bulbs integrates detailed case studies with theoretical generalizations and political analyses to offer a fully rounded treatment both of the relations between technology and society and of the issues involved in sociotechnical change.

The stories of the the safety bicycle, the first truly synthetic plastic, and the fluorescent light bulb-each a fascinating case study in itself-reflect a cross section of time periods, engineering and scientific disciplines, and economic, social, and political cultures. The bicycle story explores such issues as the role of changing gender relationships in shaping a technology; the Bakelite story examines the ways in which social factors intrude even in cases of seemingly pure chemistry and entrepreneurship; and the fluorescent bulb story offers insights into the ways in which political and economic relationships can affect the form of a technology.

Bijker's method is to use these case studies to suggest theoretical concepts that serve as building blocks in a more and more inclusive theory, which is then tested against further case studies. His main concern is to create a basis for science, technology, and social change that uncovers the social roots of technology, making it amenable to democratic politics.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 390 pages
  • 152 x 229 x 23mm | 522g
  • MIT Press
  • Cambridge, Mass., United States
  • English
  • Revised ed.
  • 0262522276
  • 9780262522274
  • 620,300

Back cover copy

'Of Bicycles, Bakelights, and Bulbs' integrates three fascinating case studies with sociological and political analysis to offer an integrated theory both of relations between technology and society and of the issues involved in sociotechnical change.
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Table of contents

King of the road - the social construction of the safety bicycle; the fourth kingdom - the social construction of bakelite; the majesty of daylight - the social construction of fluorescent lighting; conclusion - the politics of sociotechnical change.
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Review quote

"Bijker has provided a useful text demonstrating the advantages ofopening up technological phenomena to relativist inquiry...a valuablecontribution to the important goal of redefining the relation betweenthe technical and the nontechnical." Steve Woolgar , New Scientist
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About Wiebe E. Bijker

Wiebe E. Bijker is Professor at Maastricht University and the author of Of Bicycles, Bakelites, and Bulbs: Toward a Theory of Sociotechnical Change (MIT Press) and other books.
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Rating details

59 ratings
3.71 out of 5 stars
5 19% (11)
4 42% (25)
3 31% (18)
2 8% (5)
1 0% (0)
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