What are socio-technical transitions?

The category of ‘socio-technical transition’ is increasingly central to how I define my research agenda. What I used to call digitalisation or platformisation (loosely, the insert of platform intermediaries into existing social interactions) can be better described as a socio-technical transition in which the diffusion of new technologies through the lifeworld are driving a fundamental shift in the nature of social life. This is how Nesari et al define it:

Socio-technical transitions are technological changes that transform the way society functions such as transportation, communications, and housing are realized. Tangible historical examples of socio-technical transitions that have also been considered in the literature, such as the shift in the transportation industry from horse and animal-based transport to car transport or the transition from sailing ships to steamships, which have been accompanied by extensive changes in various infrastructural, social, regulatory, and other dimensions, clearly evoke the broad and multidimensional concept of transitions


I explore this through two parallel strands of research. Firstly, I analyse these changes at the level of social ontology with a focus on the how this socio-technical transition establishes new parameters for individual and collective agency. Secondly, I analyse how this transition is playing out within education, with a view to developing interventions at the level of policy and practice. My interest is in how we steer this transition in a way that reinforces agency. In the longer term I would like to develop an approach to understanding the multilevel character of socio-technical transitions, building on critical realism and Emmanuel Lazega’s neo-structuralism:

The multilevel perspective approach is a framework for perception sustainability transitions, rooted in evolutionary economics, innovation systems, and co-evolutionary research. This approach is fruitful when we need a framework for understanding stakeholder representation in historical transitions and relationships between newcomers


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