Toward a Socio-cognitive Theory of Innovation: A Model of Technology as Practice (TAP)
The need for a robust theory of innovation has been recognized by STS scholars for more than twenty-five years. The scholarly consensus is that an effective theory of innovation must understand technology as a socially embedded representation of knowledge. The later work of Ludwig Wittgenstein provides an epistemological basis for developing a socio-cognitive theory of innovation. He argued that knowledge is fundamentally expressed not in language, but in social behavior. To have knowledge is to be able to act purposefully within a social setting, to know how to do something. A technology, according to this understanding, is a way of doing things, in the sense developed by Wittgenstein. To discover or invent technological knowledge is to propose a new way of doing things. Acceptance of the hypotheses that technology is a form of knowledge and that knowledge is expressed in behavior provides the foundation for a model of innovation that links the creation of new knowledge with social and economic impacts. The model of technology as practice (TAP model) presented here is a representation of technological knowledge as behavior. It is an empirically-based model that has been employed in a number of studies to characterize technologies, to identify critical variables for successful innovation, and to evaluate design alternatives. The TAP model has several advantages as an analytic tool: It can account for innovation outcomes that economic models cannot easily address. It can be used to address the impacts of technological change not only on those who adopt a new practice but on other communities that may be impacted. It can represent how scientific knowledge, engineering knowledge and societal knowledge are the composite elements of technological knowledge, and thus provide the basis for an evolutionary theory of innovation where the fundamental process is the intentional variation of one or more of these knowledge components, and selection of a new way of life that is best adapted to the social environment.
Keywords: Technology, Practice, Model, Epistemology
Dr. J. Scott Hauger
Research Professor, Science, Technology and Policy