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    Lens questions

  1. Assess the manifest complexity of the technology in question. For example, what is the manifest complexity of windmills? (Do they present tightly coupled systems that lead to unpredictable breakdowns?) Which is more manifestly complex, nuclear reactors or windmill turbines?
  2. Assess the concealed complexity . For example, do the operating procedures of windmills conceal complexity? Do nuclear reactors conceal complexity in the complicated regulation process that has developed between manufacturers and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission? (Maybe, complexity is concealed in the divergence between formal and informal regulatory procedures, the latter having evolved as the NRC has been "captured" by reactor manufacturers.) See Ford
  3. Technological Imperative : Does the technology redefine or displace basic human needs or basic values? Does it require that we adopt ourselves to it?
  4. Reverse Adaptation : Does the technology require reverse adaptation? If yes, are there any viable "work around" strategies that could be implemented to align better the technology's needs with our own.

What you are going to do

    Exercise one: construct a socio-technical system grid

  • Choose a test case from above. (The alternatives include Cogentrix, Copper Mining, Windmills, and Laptops.)
  • Read the module, Socio-Technical Systems in Professional Decision-Making, and modify the STS table for Puerto Rico to fit the test case you are using.
  • Identify the values embedded in the technology of your test case and the STS you have modeled.
  • Identify any possible value mismatches between the technology to be introduced and the underlying STS.

    Exercise two

  • Select two of the lenses outlined above.
  • Examine your test case under the first lens by answering the questions. Give a global assessment of whether your test case technology is acceptable under the lens.
  • Examine your test case under the second lens by answering the questions. Give a global assessment of whether your test case technology is acceptable under this second lens.
  • Compare the results of the two lenses. Discuss areas of divergence between the two lenses. Discuss the areas of convergence.

Prepatory questions and module worksheet

Technology choice preparatory questions

Technology choice worksheet

Sts presentation for technological choice

Table displaying components of stss

Presentation on capabilities approach

Technology choice jeopardies

Technological choice cases jeopardy

Socio technical systems jeopardy

Jeopardy and responsibility


    Evaluate the lenses

  • Which of the three lenses presented in this module would you eliminate?
  • Which lens did you find most helpful? Why?
  • Would you recommend a new lens? What is it?

    Muddy point

  • What was the most obscure or muddiest point? (What didn’t make sense to you? What did you find objectionable?)
  • What was the strongest point of this module? What did you learn? Will you be able to put it to use?


  1. Feenberg, Andrew. (2002). Transforming Technology: A Critical Theory Revisited . Oxford, UL: Oxford University Press.
  2. Feenberg, Andrew. (1999). Questioning Technology . London: Routledge.
  3. Ford, D. (1981). A Reporter At Large: Three Mile Island. In The New Yorker , April 6, 1981: 49-106.
  4. Heilbroner, R.L. (2009). Do Machines Make History? In Technology and Society: Building Our Sociotechnical Future , Johnson, D.G. and Wetmore, J.M., (Eds.). Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press: 97-106.
  5. Hickman, L. (1990). John Dewey’s Pragmatic Technology . Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press: 140-153.
  6. Hickman, L. (2001) Philosophical Tools for Technological Culture: Putting Pragmatism to Work . Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. Your first item here
  7. Huff, C. and Finholt, T. (1994). Social Issues In Computing: Putting Computing in its Place . New York: McGraw-Hill.
  8. Kuhn, T. (1970). The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 2nd Edition . Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
  9. Mason, J. (1979). The accident that shouldn't have happened: An analysis of Three Mile Island. In IEEE Spectrum , November 1979: 33-42.
  10. Perrow, C. (1984). Normal Accidents: Living With High-Risk Technologies . Basic Books.
  11. Pinch, T.J. and Bijker, W. (2009). The Social Construction of Facts and Artifacts. In Technology and Society: Building Our Sociotechnical Future , Johnson, D.G. and Wetmore, J.M., (Eds.). Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press: 107-139.
  12. Reason, J. (1990). Human Error . Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
  13. Sismondo, S. (2004). An Introduction to Science and Technology Studies . Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishing: 51-52.
  14. Trent, March. (1992). The AES Corporation: Management Institute for Environment and Business. In Ethical Issues in Business: A Philosophical Approach, 5th Edition . Donaldson, T. and Werhane, P. (Eds.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall: 424-440.
  15. White, Leslie. (1949). The Science of Culture . New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 366.
  16. Winner, L. (2009). Do Artifacts Have Politics? In Technology and Society: Building Our Sociotechnical Future , Johnson, D.G. and Wetmore, J.M., (Eds.). Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press: 209-226.
  17. Winner, L. (1978). Autonomous Technology: Technics-out-of-Control as a Theme in Political Thought . Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press paperback edition.


Practical lenses for socio-technical systems

Questions & Answers

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Source:  OpenStax, Civis project - uprm. OpenStax CNX. Nov 20, 2013 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11359/1.4
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