Technologies aren't what they used to be: Problematising closure and relevant social groups

Social Epistemology 19 (2 & 3):283 – 285 (2005)
The sociotechnical concept of closure requires researchers to identify the relevant social groups and technological frames associated with a technology, and also to map the social, political, economic, and other forces which, over time, reduce an artifacts's interpretative flexibility to a more singular and homogeneous sociotechnical formation. The closure concept has proven very useful, but I argue that its success has led it to acquire a quasi-objective status that can unnecessarily restrict the power of sociotechnical analyses. Rather than being used as a meta-theoretical key that can unlock the genealogy of an artifact, closure can become a theoretical thing whose history has to be explained. Rather than using closure to explain the artifact, therefore, we wind up looking for closure itself. I argue instead for a sociotechnical theory in which artifacts, relevant social groups, and technological frames are never closed but are always open to new interpretations.
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