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Addressing technological change: the challenge to social theory

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Technology is central to contemporary theories of social, cultural and economic change, yet its treatment is still predominantly one of technological determinism. This article examines the development of the social studies of science and technology (STS) and its critique of this dominant position. It provides an account of the principal concepts that inform the area, which emphasize that technology is a socio-technical product, patterned by the conditions of its creation and use. Technology and society, rather than being separate spheres, are mutually constituted. In this way, STS adds an important dimension missing in recent social theory, one that is sensitive to the materiality of social relations and the power of objects. Finally, the article explores the contribution of scholars of gender and technology to both STS and feminist theory. For all the diversity to be found within the field, what has emerged is a powerful legacy of theory and research that promises to make a significant contribution to public debates in the 21st century.

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