In Search of a Network Theory of Innovations: Relations, Positions, and Perspectives

Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology (JASIST); Forthcoming

46 Pages Posted: 28 Jun 2013 Last revised: 7 Sep 2013

Loet Leydesdorff

University of Amsterdam - Amsterdam School of Communication Research (ASCoR)

Petra Ahrweiler

EA European Academy of Technology and Innovation Assessment GmbH

Date Written: September 6, 2013

Abstract

As a complement to Nelson & Winter’s (1977) article entitled “In Search of a Useful Theory of Innovation,” a sociological perspective on innovation networks can be elaborated using Luhmann’s social-systems theory, on the one hand, and Latour’s “sociology of translations,” on the other. Because of a common focus on communication, these perspectives can be recombined as a set of methodologies. Latour’s sociology of translations specifies a mechanism for generating variation in relations (“associations”), whereas Luhmann’s systems perspective enables the specification of (functionally different) selection environments such as markets, professional organizations, and political control. Selection environments can be considered as mechanisms of social coordination that can “self-organize” — beyond the control of human agency — into regimes in terms of interacting codes of communication. Unlike relatively globalized regimes, technological trajectories are organized locally in “landscapes.” A resulting “duality of structure” (Giddens, 1979) between the historical organization of trajectories and evolutionary self-organization at the regime level can be expected to drive innovation cycles. Reflexive translations add a third layer of perspectives to (i) the relational analysis of observable links that shape trajectories, and (ii) the positional analysis of networks in terms of latent dimensions. These three operations can be studied in a single framework, but using different methodologies. Latour’s first-order “associations” can then be analytically distinguished from second-order “translations” in terms of requiring other communicative competencies. The resulting operations remain “infra-reflexively” nested, and can therefore be used for innovative reconstructions of previously constructed boundaries.

Keywords: innovation, complex systems, reflexivity, synergy, translation

Suggested Citation

Leydesdorff, Loet and Ahrweiler, Petra, In Search of a Network Theory of Innovations: Relations, Positions, and Perspectives (September 6, 2013). Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology (JASIST); Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2285487 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2285487

Loet Leydesdorff (Contact Author)

University of Amsterdam - Amsterdam School of Communication Research (ASCoR) ( email )

PO Box 15793
Amsterdam, 1001 NG
Netherlands

HOME PAGE: http://www.leydesdorff.net

Petra Ahrweiler

EA European Academy of Technology and Innovation Assessment GmbH ( email )

Wilhelmstr. 56
Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, 53474
Germany
+49-2641-973 301 (Phone)
+49-2641-973 320 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.ea-aw.org

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