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The Science-Technology Relationship: A Model and a Query Author(s): Barry Barnes Source: Social Studies of Science, Vol

. 12, No. 1 (Feb., 1982), pp. 166-172 Published by: Sage Publications, Ltd. Stable URL: Accessed: 11/02/2009 22:55
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The Model I start with the major reorientation in our thinking about the science-technology relationship which has occurred in recent years. Instead we recognize science and technology to be on a par with each other.Notes and Letters (continued) * ABSTRACT This Note draws attention to the emergence of what is generally acknowledged to be a very satisfactory interactive model of the science-technology relationship. The Science-Technology A Model and a Query Relationship: Barry Barnes This very brief Note seeks merely to raise questions and point out some possible analogies and connections. nor does it involve any attempts at proof or demonstration. We are now much less prone to think in terms which subordinate technology to science. It goes on to ask why such a model should not be extended to describe the relationship of science with other sub-cultures. and have the former working out the implications of the latter. 166-72 . but both also take up and exploit some part of the culture of Social Studies of Science (SAGE. it addresses no issues of substance. Both sets of practitioners creatively extend and develop their existing culture. besides that of technology. 12 (1982). using abstractions rather than actual historicallysituated models and theories. Vol. London and Beverly Hills). and referring to the literature sparingly and unsystematically. I have felt entitled to proceed in a semi-mythological way. Accordingly.

failure in T is incompetent use of S. a. S makes occasional creative use of T. both being inventive. T deduces the implications of S and gives them physical representation. For the development of knowledge Words Words S --T Egalitarian interactive People People PRESENT S Invention T Invention MAJOR RESOURCES MAJOCO TRTS CONSTRAINTS ON RESULTS FORMS OF COGNITION MAJOR S Existing science T Existing technology S No single major constraint T No single major constraint S Creative/constructive T Creative/constructive a. No a priori reason why activity in T should not be evaluated by reference to ends relevant to agents in S. c. T is evaluated according to its ability to infer the implications of S. For the development of competence and technique c. Interaction b. or vice versa. No feedback from T to S.Notes and Letters: Barnes: Science. S evaluates discoveries in an unchanging context-independent way. For the evaluation of knowledge and competence c. b.Technology 167 TABLE 1 Conceptions of the Relationship Between Science (S) and Technology (T) THE INSTITUTION COMPARED FORMS OF ACTIVITY 'BAD OLD DAYS' S Discovery Creation of knowledge T Application Use of knowledge S Nature T Science S State of nature T State of science S Creative/constructive T Routine/deductive THEIR RELATIONSHIP S GENERAL IMAGE T T Hierarchical dependence MAIN MEDIATING AGENCIE S OUTCOMES a. . Success in T is proper use of S. T makes occasional creative use of S. Predictable consequences. S and T. Interaction as above. b. both involve evaluation in terms of ends. No predictable consequences. Not a separate question. S may make free creative use of T as resource in research.

like calculators or quartz-watches. patterns and procedures. it is an abstraction which. and made out as a logical consequence of the newest scientific theory or discovery encountered in the line of its development. with instruction books attached. Fortunately. Rather than documenting and justifying the contents of the table. At least two intellectual developments were necessary for the emergence of an interactive model. in just . In the case of science. which looks much the same whichever way round it is considered. could be used as a measure of technological inefficiency.2 The second necessary development was more subtle and far-reaching. that Marconi did not follow from Maxwell. there is no fundamental distinction to be drawn between the creation of a scientific theory and its subsequent application.culture which tends to be transferred predominantly by personal mobility. the tendency to relate new findings solely to nature. First. historians of technology helped to reorientate our thinking: they insisted that we recognize what was surely never hard to see. It had to be accepted that knowledge does not have inherent implications. Just as the one is the imaginative development and purposive reordering of existing knowledge. And so also. and those to which it is related by the traditions and mental habits of the people who are its prime consumers. undue concern with the role of science in innovation for a long time stifled interest in the far more important role of existing technology. so too is the other. Technology and science could both survive as forms of institutionalized activity independently of the other. mutually beneficial interaction. I believe. is a moot point.4 Cognitively. whether existing science or inputs from technology.a weak. science and technology had both to be recognized as forms of culture: it had to be accepted that new science develops predominantly from old science. new technology from old technology. captures much of the basic structure of current thinking. just as they frequently exploit the resources of their own technological culture. Accordingly. As Joseph Ben-David has rightly stressed. that. 'nothing is "implied" in a discovery beyond the questions answered by it. I rely upon the reader to recognize the two models it represents. but I do hope that the interactive model attributed to the present day will be recognized by most readers. So long as theories and discoveries were thought to have such implications. In the case of technology. Although it corresponds to no specific opinion. the so-called 'lag' between fundamental research and its application. and analogously with instruments. in general.168 Social Studies of Science the other . historians of technology are now rapidly redressing the balance: there is no longer any difficulty in perceiving that new machines develop predominantly out of old ones. scientific theories do not arrive. that quantum theories of the solid state did not evoke transistors as a rational intuition.'3 Scientific 'discoveries' have no logical implications. Nor can technologists rely upon their 'traditions and mental habits' to arrive at what may be taken to be 'implications': technologists are not 'prime consumers'. But again. but they are in fact enmeshed in a symbiotic relationship . constituted an obstacle which has only recently been overcome. we must expect technologists actively and imaginatively to exploit scientific work. and to give little explicit stress to received knowledge. even in the 'bad old days'. technology could be seen as a routine activity wherein those implications were deduced and realized. materials. and the period between theory and innovation. How far the hierarchical model had credibility. This reorientation is set out in an extreme form in Table 1. Any technological innovation could be traced backwards.

in the hope that the reader will recognize it and concede the high regard in which it is widely held. is the exploitation of technological innovation in the context of science. to the extent that there is such a relationship. without danger to the standing of the latter. from the other. there is the generally acknowledged merit of the interactive model as a representation of the science-technology relationship. An hierarchical model is employed. the tendency is to presume that science is used by political sub-cultures but that science is itself untouched by this use. should the relationship between science and political subcultures. 'science' and 'technology'. is not considered. and our willingness to evaluate it as epistemologically comparable with science are intimately connected. A plausible hypothesis is that our willingness to describe a sub-culture as in symmetrical interaction with science. Thus.Notes and Letters: Barnes: Science. I need only describe it. this move is rarely made. and hence criteria. however sophisticated. For example. presents much greater difficulties of conceptualization when the alternative hierarchical model is employed.5 The utility of the model in empirical studies is already widely recognized. Consider how much can be said in favour of such a policy. however.activity which of its nature demands evaluation in relation to human objectives . my assessment of the merits of the interactive model is irrelevant. or even total interpenetration. of the objectives and judgements of technologists and scientists. that the possibility of feedback into science should always be investigated as a matter of routine. I ask why it should not be used. This opens the path to the query which is the crux of my Note. and the possibility of interaction. everywhere apparent in the history of either activity. there is the character of the arguments which support the adoption of the model in that context. First. or allow for the negotiable and essentially contested character of the two concepts. not be conceptualized in this way. is only to say why an interactive conception is not used. or the relationship between science and our everyday commonsense culture? It is certainly easy to speculate upon why. At present. for example. And a very satisfactory model it is. These arguments do not require the existence of any special or distinctive features in the sub-cultures of science . Why should an interactive model of this kind not be used as a way of conceptualizing the relationship of science with other sub-cultures? Why. is easy to understand how judgement in one context may readily become conditioned by objectives. To say this. I suggest that an interactive model should always be used in such cases. can cope perfectly with the complexities of real relationships. when a relationship is perceived between science and (say) politics. and its wider heuristic value is beginning to be apparent. and hence affect science. obviously and impressively efficacious and thereby in a sense valid. is possibly the only form of culture which can interact with science. Technology. given that no such construct. and hence of inputs into science. as a matter of fact. or by its general relationship to the political context at that point. This overlap.Technology 169 the same way. and that zero feedback should be treated merely as a possible empirical finding. the current interactive model of the science-technology relationship has emerged. The Query For present purposes. however. once we think in terms of the interaction of two contexts of inventive activity .

theories locating powers in matter itself and denying the primacy. It is both arbitrary and. unsatisfactory. development and evaluation of the science itself. On the contrary. Newton and Priestley were men of science. incorrect. For example. there does not appear to be a ready interchange of methods and models. to assume that the matter theories of these men of science originated in ways quite unconnected with the social and political uses. and the work it does in reinterpreting the very re- . hierarchical model of the science-technology relationship. and that many of its principal features are now common currency among us. with the role of the latter being solely to use. and the abandonment of that imputation which allowed the interactive model to be justified. Newton and Priestley all had important social and political uses. that matter was inert and lacking in inherent powers. The profane culture of 'society' has been set below science. Thus the matter theories of. or to misuse.precisely as was done with technology in the 'bad old days' when it too was reckoned a possible source of defilement.170 Social Studies of Science and technology. was no mere individual idiosyncracy or expedient technical assumption. Recent work in the latter field. Boyle's a priori conviction. nor was Priestley's materialism and consequent affection for the phlogiston theory. It has for a long time been standard practice for historians to speak of the social or political uses of science: one way traffic has been assumed from science to 'society'. which make them potent metaphors. But the current trend is to call into question this asymmetrical treatment. and of parallel movements in sociology and political science. and their relationship has been conceptualized hierarchically . nor was Newton's view of the universe as rich in spirit and poor in matter.ted to the study of the general social and political context of science: although there is some overlap of personnel between the fields. These are precisely the two characteristics which endow representations with heuristic value. indicates that it may now independently be recapitulating the development of the former. the knowledge derived from the former. however. The interactive model treats science and technology as much more closely analogous to other forms of culture than did its predecessor. and the associated assumption that where science is used in a general social context what is involved is mere use. Finally. Theories asserting the primacy of spirit over matter were favoured by spiritual elites and supporters of clerical hierarchies. it was precisely the imputation of such features to scientific culture which sustained the earlier. And this in turn suggests that the science-technology relationship is likely to be relevantly analogous to other relationships between sub-cultures. If Boyle. there is the fact that the science-technology interaction is understood in a considerable degree of detail. versatile tools of thought. as it happens. so important in his technical scientific work. At present the study of science and technology is but weakly conne. who has tellingly demonstrated how the 'uses' are relevant to an understanding of the conception. This example is genuinely representative of emerging trends in the social history of science. to deduce its real 'implications' or to attach false 'implications' to it. or even the existence. Boyle.6 Shapin notes how theories of matter were deployed as strategies to further interests throughout the period of the Enlightenment. and not interaction. then their science was a sub-culture which interacted with the wider culture in a way well adumbrated by the right hand column of Table 1. among others. its vocabulary. of spirit were deployed by opponents of those elites and hierarchies.7 Yet it is clear from its structure. a great range of materials on the 'social uses' of eighteenth-century science has recently been gathered together by Shapin.

cit. With regard to technology. Science. J. But to the extent that the framework produces problems of intelligibility. that there should be such suspicion. I cite W. de S. Diffuse long-term trends are being referred to here. O. Gibbons and C. Marquis (eds). Shapin himself notes that 'A proper perspective of the uses of science might reveal that the sociology of knowledge and the history of technology have more in common than is usually thought' (ibid. Price to this volume remains one of the best general presentations of current thinking about the science-technology relation. For a general account along these lines see D. Cf. as one marker of the point at which the interactive conception and its merits achieved clear visibility. 50. 'Social Uses of Science'. 2. 4. note 1). Porter (eds). al.: MIT Press. 227 (11 July 1970). Shapin. Natural Order (Beverly Hills. 1967). J.: Sage. for a very brief concrete illustration. Calif. Fundamental Research and the Universities (Paris: OECD. 27. which cannot be associated with specific contributions. 3. 125-27. Layton. in I. (eds). * NOTES 1. 1977). in G. 663-73. note 6. Factors in the Transfer of Technology (Cambridge..: Sage. Vol. Sociological Review Monograph No.: University of Keele. 1980). Layton. de S. M. Lemaine et. Staffs. The contribution of D. Perspectives on the Emergence of Scientific Disciplines (The Hague: Mouton. 132). Technology and Society (London and Beverly Hills. Wallis (ed. 'The Science-Technology Relationship as a Historiographic Problem'. and G. On the Margins of Science: The Social Construction of Rejected Knowledge (Keele. that it represents an attempt at persuasion on behalf of a framework both cognitively alien and evaluatively suspect to much of its audience. 1979). 1979). Spiegel-Rosing and D. B. The Ferment of Knowledge (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Technology and Culture. Mass. 7. 1976). Shapin (eds). Barnes and S. Rousseau and R. or stimulates conceptual questions. This perceptive insight into 'implication' as a matter of habit and custom is suggestive in many other ways. A good source for further developments is the excellent bibliographical essay by E. Kuhn's work on research traditions and Price's upon research literatures have special significances as far as science is concerned. Calif. 93-139. 197-222. the many references in Porter and Rousseau. 'Conditions of Technological Development'. Hughes or Layton (cf. Technology and Change (Oxford: Pergamon. S. Price (eds). and indeed desirable. 5. S. J. . op. No doubt. 1969). 1968). one has to consider the overall tendency in such concrete historical studies as those of Cardwell. Within the context of the social and intellectual history of science it is natural. Vol.Notes and Letters: Barnes: Science. Gruber and G. cit. Cf.). 6. 'Relationship between Science and Technology'. Nature. op. Schon. it is surely relevant to note that it already exists in a well developed form as the accepted model of the science-technology relationship.Technology 171 cent primary materials upon which it relies. 17 (1979). R. Johnson. Ben-David. In lieu of documentation. Mayr.

.172 Social Studies of Science Author's address: Science Studies Unit. Scotland. UK. Edinburgh EH8 9JT. Edinburgh University. 34 Buccleuch Place.