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Technology as Practice: Local and Global Closure Processes in Diesel-Engine Design

Mikael Hard
Social Studies of Science
Vol. 24, No. 3 (Aug., 1994), pp. 549-585
Published by: Sage Publications, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/285586
Page Count: 37
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Technology as Practice: Local and Global Closure Processes in Diesel-Engine Design
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Abstract

This paper tries to contribute to the debates about the nature of technical closure and the character of technical work. The paper focuses on the relationship between world-wide and geographically-limited closure processes and the practical aspects of design. It is based on an analysis of the development of the diesel engine during the 1920s and 1930s. It shows that global closure was reached in diesel engineering on the levels of basic outline, overall goals and developmental trajectories, but also that the design and arrangement of various engine parts remained largely in flux during this period; and it argues that a theoretical perspective that views technology as a local and practical activity - and not only as universal and cognitive - is needed to understand processes of 'black-boxing' and stabilization. In support of these claims, a case study from the United States is presented, and a Bourdieuian theory of practice is proposed as a possible approach for technology studies.

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