Speaking on the historical and social influences on technology adoption, science Professor Bernard Carlson, (University of Virginia, USA) tells engineering students: “they are going to produce sociotechnical systems,“ meaning they need to understand how people “interact with technology.”
Society shapes the development and use of technology (this is a function of social determinism; for example, cars didn’t really become ubiquitous until they became easy to operate and cheap to buy), but technology also shapes society (technological determinism; think of the way cars then essentially created the suburbs). Over time, the two interact with and change each other, an idea known as technological momentum, which was introduced in 1969 by Thomas P. Hughes, a historian of technology. According to Hughes’s theory, the technologies we end up using aren’t determined by any objective measure of quality. In fact, the tools we choose are often deeply flawed. They just happened to meet our particular social needs at a particular time and then became embedded in our culture.
“Why Your Car Isn’t Electric.” Source: The New York Times.