Challenging Incommensurability: What We Can Learn from Ludwik Fleck for the Analysis of Configurational Innovation

Minerva 49 (4):489-508 (2011)
This paper argues that Ludwik Fleck’s concepts of thought collectives and proto-ideas are surprisingly topical to tackle some conceptual challenges in analyzing contemporary innovation. The objective of this paper is twofold: First, it strives to establish Ludwik Fleck as an important classic on the map of innovation analysis. A systematic comparison with Thomas Kuhn’s work on paradigms, a concept highly influential in various branches of innovation studies, suggests a number of pronounced yet under-researched advantages of a Fleckian perspective in the context of technological change and innovation. Secondly, the paper links these advantages to some recent changes in the organization of innovation. Due to the rising pervasiveness of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), configurational innovation has become commonplace that cuts across the boundaries of established trajectories of knowledge generation. Fleck’s graded understanding of the closedness of thought collectives and his weak notion of incommensurability provide powerful metaphors to grasp the peculiarities of configurational innovation
Keywords Thought style  Paradigm  Ludwik Fleck  Configurational technology  Innovation
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DOI 10.1007/s11024-011-9180-4
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Thomas S. Kuhn (1982). Commensurability, Comparability, Communicability. PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1982:669 - 688.

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