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Comparison and Contrast of Social Construction of Technology and Technological Determinism: Electric Toothbrush

Comparison and Contrast of Social Construction of Technology and Technological Determinism: Electric Toothbrush

Attempts to address technology has been made by various theories which are associated with communication and science and technology studies (STS).In general, these theories try to address the link between society and technology. They include Domestication theory, Actor-Network theory, Social Construction of technology, Social shaping of technology and Technological determinisms (Wajman 2010). This paper will compare and contrast Social Construction of Technology and Technological Determinism by using an electric toothbrush.

Electric Toothbrush

An electric toothbrush is a toothbrush that makes an automatic and rapid bristle motions either front and back of the rotation-oscillation or oscillation, for the torch to be clean. Piezoelectric crystals produces ultrasonic motions in ultrasonic toothbrushes, while sonic toothbrush speeds are made by a motor. A rechargeable battery charges the modern electric toothbrush. Classification of electric toothbrushes is done according to the speed movements as ultrasonic, sonic or power toothbrushes. This depends on whether their movements are made below the range of 20-20,000Hz or above 2400-2,400,000 movements per minute (Electricity Teeth Stuff 2015)

Social construction of technology

Social construction of technology also known as SCOT is advocated for by social constructivists, who argue that human action is not determined by technology, rather technology is shaped by human action. It is not the introduction of electric toothbrushes that determine the action of a person, but it is the actions of people in the society taken as a result of solving an oral health problem that shapes the development of electric toothbrushes. They also argue that understanding how technology is entrenched in its social settings enables the understanding of the ways in the use the technology (Bijker et al. 1987).

technology. the causes of successes and failures of a analysing it is also a methodology that provides principles and steps that need to be followed when theory, but One cannot bring forth a final verdict on what is the best tooth electric brush without involving the social world. Those relevant groups or those involved in the use of electric toothbrush should be the one to define how best the toothbrush is, according to defined criteria. Not only is SCOT a . out whoever defines the technical criteria, and why the criteria are defined that way and who is excluded or includedmust findParticularly, they

prioritized? Between convenience and speed, what is the “best” transaction? This alternative interpretation of electric toothbrushes brings forth diverse problems that should be solved. How should convenience, comfortability and speed be . and scary to othersnoise as the product of intergroup negotiations. Interpretive flexibility means that electric toothbrush has different interpretations and meaning for various groups. It can mean a more convenient way of cleaning teeth for some individuals, whereas it can mean nuisance and artefacts to show the similarities of artefacts to technological the interpretive flexibility conceptOther scholars of SCOT also apply According to Pickering (1984), different outcomes can be produced by technology design depending on social circumstances of development, since it is a process that is open. Development of electric toothbrush is open, and depending on the needs of the society, different designs can be produced. Electric toothbrush design for children could differ from adults with braces. Pinch (1977) argues that physics entities such s the particles, are the intergroup negotiations’ products over the interpretation of observations.

An account of the negotiations over the studies of fluorescent lighting and Bakelite was provided by Biker Webier’s work on early bicycles work provided by Pinch, Trevor, Bijker Webier and Hughe’s missile accuracy missile definition negotiations, investigation of the manufacture of steel by Misa Thomas, and work on ultracentrifuges by Elzen Boelie. Under determination of technological artifacts is done sufficiently to allow various possible designs, so that the design resulting from the process is different.

all groups agree on how the artifacts work. Design of the artifacts stop when the pertinent social groups agree that it works for them (Bijker et al. 1987). and gives their views on its design. Developments of the technology continue until artefact are manifested in their actions. The process of technology development involves various groups, each with its own interpretation of an artefacts, and the meanings they convey to centred They are the agents in this approach that is agency-., which is shared among all the members of a certain social groupartefact of a set of same meanings to a specific an attachmentThe second component of the SCOT is the relevant social groups which are incarnations of certain interpretations and asserts that there is

The producers and users of electric toothbrush are the relevant groups. Producers may want to develop a toothbrush that provides mechanical movement that allows the movement of the head from side to side or up and down, in order to have a good scrubbing (Oscillating-rotating brushes). Another producer may develop a toothbrush which forces toothpaste between the teeth and clean by intense vibration (sonic brushes), yet another may develop toothbrush that does not involve brushing, but when held of teeth, it penetrates into gums and teeth using a special toothpaste, and millions of sound waves per minute are created (Ultrasonic). On the other hand, customers may want oscillating-rotating brushes with silent operation, tremendous power, and delivers smart looks, while another set of customers may want the same oscillating-rotating brushes but with smart sensors to adjust cleaning speed automatically, and with a slim profile. All these relevant groups need to be involved in the development process with intense negotiations to attain consensus.

Closure and stabilization is the third component of SCOT. Controversies can be experienced by a multigroup design, when conflicting images of the electronic toothbrush are caused by different interpretations. Conflicts on the design continue until a resolution is made, and the toothbrush poses as a solution to relevant social groups. No further modification takes place on the toothbrush as a closure is achieved by multigroup process, and stabilization of the toothbrush takes route in its final form (Bijker et al. 1987), that rhetorical closure is made, declaring that there is no necessary design to be made, since there are further problems in existence. On the other hand, closure by redefinition takes place when redefinition of unresolved problems is done, so that they don’t continue posing problems to social groups

Fourth, there’s a wider political and sociocultural environment in which the development of the artefact occurs. The role of this concept in the original conception of SCOT is minor. Relations within group interactions, rules governing how they interact, and factors influences their power difference, remain invisible at large. It is on this concept that SCOT faces most criticisms (Bijker et al. 1987).

technological determinism term. , ThorsteinVeblen (1857 – 1927) is believed to have coined sociologist An American . and history is determined by technology, technological innovation drives social progress which then follows a course that is inevitablethe technological development idea, social change is determined by , cultural and social changes are determined by technical forces,Technological determinisms assert that the technology of a society determines its history, social structure or cultural values. Different authors have summarized technological determinisms as a belief in which society is governed by technology

There are two general ideas shared by most technological determinism interpretations; (i) that technology impact inherent societies, instead of those that are conditioned socially or that once a technology has been introduced, the societies organize themselves to support and develop it further, and (2) that a traceable and predictable path is followed by technology development beyond political or cultural influence. In this case, no social or relevant groups are involved.

Another producer may develop an ultrasonic toothbrush which is slightly noisy, high intensity and tremendous power. However, parents may recommend adjustments to fit the children’s teeth by using extra-soft bristles, silent operation, and a gripping hand operating at a low-intensity oscillating movement. to their mobile phones.regimen to relay their brushing Bluetooth-in built of smart sensors to adjust cleaning, silent operation and the inclusion introduces to the society, which embraces the toothbrushes, and by using it individuals provide feedback and their sentiments, which are used for further development. Oscillating-rotating toothbrushes may be developed which is slightly noisy, offers tremendous power and lives and impressive polish finish. However, the users may recommend toothbrush, thenA producer develops an electronic

The theory of the social construction of technology stands to be opposed by technological determinants, in that both the innovation path and technology consequences for people are strongly shaped by the society itself, through the influence of economic arrangements, politics and culture, among others. Though technology and science studies have discredited technological determinisms to a large extent, its view still dominates most popular culture and news media.


Technological determinism is no longer considered to be an accurate view by modern thinkers, in the way in with humans interact with technology. Feenberg (2004) does not find technological determinisms to be a very well established concept, arguing that it is easy to question two of the determinism founding theses, and by doing this Feenberg calls for democratic rationalization. Hard and soft technological determinism is transcended by Winner (1986) by elaborating ways in which politics can dwell within artifacts. Technological determinisms is also conflicted by Winner with his technological somnambulism term, in which he wonders whether or not people have to sleepwalk through their existence, having no or little knowledge or concern as to how they interact with technology. In this case, individuals in the society having no idea on how the electronic toothbrush is used or how it is supposed to fit their needs, they blindly walk through its use, making it a challenge to interact with the toothbrush. He argues that it is possible for people to rise up and take control again of the direction in which they are going.

Second, social groups and interests are examined and found to fail to , those groups not involved in the development process, yet they may be affected by it. When developing electric toothbrushes for children, parents may be involved but children as the main users may be excluded, if though they may be affected directly by them. Options that never made it to the negotiation table are not accounted for in social construction of technology. In case of the electric toothbrushes for children, it would be easy to assume that slight noise during cleaning of the teeth is fun to children, while in reality it may scare them away, though this assumption would be avoided if children were involved in the development process to provide their views. its effect on the society is ignored, therefore, nothing is explained how this toothbrush matters in wider context. explained, but place, but ignores its consequences. The development of electronic toothbrush is takes of technologies how the riseOn social construction theory, Langdon Winner raised a few concerns with social constructivism. He asserts that there is a general narrow research program done in social constructivism. First, social construction theory explains

Finally, social construction theory is recommended for its ability to response to immediate interests, solutions, problems and needs of the relevant social groups and their influence on the choice of toothbrush, but disregards ny cultural, economic, intellectual and cultural concerns (Winner 2004).


Technological determinisms strongly support the shaping of the society by the technology, while social construction theory contradicts this by asserting that technology is shaped by the society. As long as both theories ensure sound interaction of technology and the society by meeting the needs of the people, both seem relevant.


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