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Sociocultural Aspects of Technological Change: The Rise of the Swiss Electricity Supply Economy


Gugerli, David (1995). Sociocultural Aspects of Technological Change: The Rise of the Swiss Electricity Supply Economy. Science in Context, 8(03):459-486.

Abstract

The impressive growth of the Swiss electricity supply industry in the late nineteenth cestury has usually been explained by Switzerland's abundant waterpower resouces, its well-equipped financial markets, and the mechanical skills of its Swiss workers and engineers. This article does not aim to deny the importance of these factors. Rather it seeks to explain how they developed synergetic effects and how they were knit together. The argument is put forward in three steps: First, I show the importance of the new technology's discursive integration, arguing that the development of specialized electric discourse led to a social shaping of technology that was highly compatible with generalized cultural patterns of late nineteenth-century Swiss society. The expressive dispositions and instituted means of expression that constitiute the elextric discourse were constantly pursuing and achieving effective resonances in other discursive fields. This allowed for a solid integration of the electrotechnical discourse in late nineteenth-century Swiss society. Second, I argue that electrotechnology was modeled in such a way that it became coupled with existing technological (and scientific) practices, such as the national mapping endeavor, the urban gas and water supply, the sewer system, and the telegraphic networks. It is noteworthy that making electrotechnology compatible with other technological practices led not only to similar patterns in the design and management of both the old and the new technologies but also to operated with the existing water supply station. Using the example of the electrification of Zurich, I then, in a third step, combine the two elements - discursive accommodation and practical assimilation - to demonstrate their effects on the selection and construction of technology. The article's somewhat complex argumentative strategy allows for a differentiated interpretation of the phenomenon and shows the importance of taking into consideration the sociocultural dimension of economic growth that had its roots in the diffusion of a new technology

Abstract

The impressive growth of the Swiss electricity supply industry in the late nineteenth cestury has usually been explained by Switzerland's abundant waterpower resouces, its well-equipped financial markets, and the mechanical skills of its Swiss workers and engineers. This article does not aim to deny the importance of these factors. Rather it seeks to explain how they developed synergetic effects and how they were knit together. The argument is put forward in three steps: First, I show the importance of the new technology's discursive integration, arguing that the development of specialized electric discourse led to a social shaping of technology that was highly compatible with generalized cultural patterns of late nineteenth-century Swiss society. The expressive dispositions and instituted means of expression that constitiute the elextric discourse were constantly pursuing and achieving effective resonances in other discursive fields. This allowed for a solid integration of the electrotechnical discourse in late nineteenth-century Swiss society. Second, I argue that electrotechnology was modeled in such a way that it became coupled with existing technological (and scientific) practices, such as the national mapping endeavor, the urban gas and water supply, the sewer system, and the telegraphic networks. It is noteworthy that making electrotechnology compatible with other technological practices led not only to similar patterns in the design and management of both the old and the new technologies but also to operated with the existing water supply station. Using the example of the electrification of Zurich, I then, in a third step, combine the two elements - discursive accommodation and practical assimilation - to demonstrate their effects on the selection and construction of technology. The article's somewhat complex argumentative strategy allows for a differentiated interpretation of the phenomenon and shows the importance of taking into consideration the sociocultural dimension of economic growth that had its roots in the diffusion of a new technology

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Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:National licences > 142-005
Dewey Decimal Classification:900 History
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > General Social Sciences
Social Sciences & Humanities > History and Philosophy of Science
Language:English
Date:1 September 1995
Deposited On:12 Oct 2018 07:21
Last Modified:09 Apr 2020 00:10
Publisher:Cambridge University Press
ISSN:0269-8897
OA Status:Green
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1017/s026988970000212x
Related URLs:https://www.swissbib.ch/Search/Results?lookfor=nationallicencecambridge101017S026988970000212X (Library Catalogue)

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