After the linear model: a situated approach to innovation
Sociology and Social Research Universtity of Trento Trento, Italy
Innovation and change are fundamental issues in science and technologiy studies. What scholars from different perspectives try to explain is how innovation and change occur, with particular reference to the ongoing evolution of new technologies.
The aim of this paper will be to explore the concept of innovation from a new perspective, which try to go over the "traditional" linear model of innovation. The latter, in fact, proposes a view of innovations in which they are first recognized, then accepted by few actors, and then widely diffused and accepted within a field. However, in this paper it will be used a situated approch to innovation, which looks at change that is not planned, but emerges from the situated practices of specific contexts. Therefore it is is necessary to investigate the situated practice as the locus of innovation.
Adopting this approach I will explore a situated technological change using the empirical example of assisted reproduction, where a new technology will take the place of the old one. At the moment two different assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) are simultaneously used: IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) and ICSI (Intracytoplasmatic Sperm Injection). The two techniques differ in the laboratory practices of the professional, usually a biologist, who performs them. In the case of IVF the biologist puts an egg and sperm together in a test tube and it is only after 24 hours that s/he will know if fertilization has occurred; instead, in the case of ICSI, the biologist injects a single sperm in the oocyte, with control of the process.
The case under examination shows therefore, how two different technologies that don't present significant differences in terms of the results obtained, coexist in the realization of daily work practices in reproductive centers. Looking at technological innovation from this perspective, that which I am interested in examining is technological change in action, the progressive passage from the old (IVF) to the new (ICSI) technique, integrated in a controversial technology and tied to knowledge processes that are developed through organizational activity.