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Institutional Logics, Collective Actions and Development of New Technologies
Kirsch, David A
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Technology development is an outcome of collective social processes among actors in different institutional fields. In the literature on technology development, there have been long debates regarding whether technology shapes social structure and order, or whether social forces determine the developmental trajectories of technology. From a series of studies, I seek to understand the social dynamics of technology development in order to address theoretical tensions, both theoretically and empirically. Three separate yet related studies together provide a theoretical model and relevant empirical evidence for the linkages among actors, institutional logics and technologies. In Chapter 1 I first attempt to theorize about how actors, including scientists, engineers and technology users, collectively shape technological evolution in the general technology context. Combining the two perspectives--institutional logics and collective actions, I develop a theoretical model that addresses how scientists and engineers, faced with multiple institutional logics, strategically respond to the multiple institutional logics, and how the different formation of institutional logics can systematically lead to different types of technology development. In the theoretical model, I discuss four distinctive social mechanisms of framing institutional logics--replacing, patching, sequencing, and reinforcing, and the relationships between the social mechanisms and the types of technology development. In Chapter 2, building upon the theoretical model proposed in Chapter 1, I empirically investigate the emergence and decline of electric and hybrid drives in the community of electric vehicle researchers from 1969-2009. Combining the perspectives of institutional logics and social movements, I argue that an institutional logic is a product of collective social processes among actors in different institutional fields, and that established logics play an integral role in shaping the differential development of new technology. Empirical findings suggest that environmental protests and economic recessions systematically influence technologists' incorporation of two institutional logics (environmentalism vs. industrialism), and that social cohesion among actors within each institutional logic tends to shape differential developmental trajectories of electric and hybrid drives in the community of electric vehicle researchers. In Chapter 3 I further explore the process through which actors respond to multiple and conflicting institutional logics, suggesting that actors can purposefully create new concepts and meanings, modify meanings of institutional logics, or reinforce existing meanings. While existing institutional work has suggested and empirically demonstrated that institutional logics shape cognitive and behavioral patterns of actors, it still remains unanswered as to how actors can mobilize existing and new logics--differential decoupling processes. To trace the processes of constructing meanings of institutional logics, I conducted an inductive study by employing keyword-based, computer-aided text analysis of research proceedings published by the international Electric Vehicle Symposium in 1969 and in 1994. From the analysis, I identify four social mechanisms of logic construction: clarifying, patching, expanding and reinforcing. Moreover, empirical findings suggest that social mechanisms of patching, expanding and reinforcing are closely related to the emergence of hybrid drive.