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
Date Written: September 6, 2013
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: Suggested Citation