Keeping Steady as She Goes: A Negotiated Order Perspective on Technological Evolution
Organization Studies, May-June 2012
A central idea in the theory of technology cycles is that social and political mechanisms are most important during the selection of a dominant design, and that eras of incremental change are socially uninteresting periods in which innovation is driven by technological momentum and elaboration of the dominant design.In this essay, we overturn the ontological assumption that social order is inherently stable, drawing on Anselm Strauss’s concept of negotiated order to analyze the persistence of a dominant design as a social accomplishment: an outcome of ongoing processes that reinforce or challenge a socially negotiated order. Thus, we shift focus from battles over standards to periods of normal innovation. We extend the technology cycles model to explain social dynamics in periods of incremental change, and to make predictions specifying how contextual conditions in standards-setting organizations affect social interaction, leading to reinforcement or challenge to a socio-technical order.