vendredi 9 mai 2014

Technical Steps.

Professor Bourbaki, IMG_0291, 2013.

Local practices form the place of origin of novelty and new technical knowledge. New technologies emerge as small technical steps in response to local problems, and only later give rise to new technical trajectories. Thus, both new artefacts and knowledge emerge through localised work. But local technical knowledge does not simply flow to other locations, as if it were a discrete entity. Before knowledge can circulate, it has to be made sufficiently context-free. (…) To create generic knowledge that can circulate, dedicated socio-cognitive work is needed to bring about a process of aggregation. “Aggregation” is the process of transforming local knowledge into robust knowledge, which is sufficiently general, abstracted and packaged, so that it is no longer tied to specific contexts. (…) 

Typical aggregation activities include standardisation, model building, writing of handbooks, formulation of best practices. Also codification, a term used by economists to describe the transformation of tacit into codified knowledge, is part of aggregation. (…) 

Codification means recording in a “codebook” and involves model building, language creation and message writing. While codification highlights the “coding” aspect of dynamics, aggregation also emphasises the “de-localisation” aspect. Aggregation refers to a broader socio-cognitive process of which codification is an aspect. 

Aggregation entails the production of a collective good: abstract knowledge that can be used by others. Because of free-rider problems, participation in aggregation processes is not self-evident. Why would you contribute to the build-up of a collective knowledge reservoir and share experiences with others, especially when they are competitors? Without proper arrangements or incentive structures, such collective goods will not be produced optimally, because they can be used by others who have not contributed to its production (Deuten, 2003). An important arrangement is the creation of intermediary actors, for example, professional societies, industry associations, standardisation organisations. Such intermediary actors may be created when actors perceive themselves as part of an emerging community with collective interests. In that case, perceived benefits of producing a collective good may outweigh perceived disadvantages. 

Intermediary actors may perform aggregation activities, because they have special responsibilities and roles. Standardisation organisations, for instance, are responsible for creating and maintaining a collective reservoir of (standardised) technical knowledge (Schmidt and Werle, 1998). Professional societies and industry associations also stimulate and facilitate the production and circulation of technical knowledge. They may create technical standards, articulate problem agendas, and exchange experiences and findings to further the interests of the (emergent) field as a whole. Also firms that travel between local practices may aggregate knowledge. Engineering firms or sector research institutes, for instance, are hired by other firms to perform certain jobs. They can compare experiences in different locations, reflect on differences and draw general conclusions. They can use this aggregated knowledge for other jobs in different locations. Initially, they may aggregate their experiences for intra-organisational purposes only. But they may also be willing to share (parts of) their knowledge reservoirs to enhance their reputation and visibility in relevant forums. 

Aggregation activities by intermediary actors do not revolve around finding technological solutions for local, specific problems, but rather around the creation, maintenance and distribution of generic, abstracted knowledge that can be used throughout a technological field (Rip, 1997; Deuten, 2003). So there is a division of cognitive labour: practical technical work in local practices, and dedicated aggregation activities to transform local experiences into global knowledge. Intermediary actors work at this global level. Intermediary actors are not always present from the start. They are often created as part of the emergence of a new technical community. Also the creation of an infrastructure for circulation and aggregation processes is important. Such an infrastructure consists of forums that enable (and induce) the gathering and interaction of actors, the exchange of experiences and the organisation of collective action. Examples of such forums are conferences, seminars, workshops, technical journals, proceedings, and so on. The creation of these forums tends to be part of community formation processes.

F. Geels and J. J. Deuten, “Local and global dynamics in technological development: a socio-cognitive perspective on knowledge flows and lessons from reinforced concrete,” Sci. Public Policy, vol. 33, no. 4, pp. 265–275, May 2006.

Aucun commentaire:

Enregistrer un commentaire