Bijker's Bikes Revisited: Towards a Contemporary Social Construction of Technology

Activity: Talk or presentationTalk at workshop, seminar or courseScience to science


If we are to understand contemporary cycling innovation, it is necessary to go beyond the SCOT approach as drafted by Wiebe Bijker and Trevor Pinch more than 30 years ago. With their famous study on the transition from the high-wheeler to the safety bicycle by the end of the 19th Century Bijker and Pinch led the way beyond deterministic narratives and linear models of innovation. Of course, SCOT has been developed further by embracing criticism and contributions of other scholars. Most notably Paul Rosen elaborated the initial SCOT framework substantially with his study of the British cycle industry in the 20th Century.
Looking at the contemporary situation, it becomes clear that our way of understanding cycling innovations needs further revision. In my paper, I go through the central analytical notions of SCOT and test their explanatory potential at present. Apparently, it is necessary to rethink the idea of “dominant design”, since there is none today. What we find instead is product diversification and continuous innovation. This observation challenges the idea of “stability” and “closure”. Scrutinising contemporary design debates leads to a rather different picture. Today, such discursive practices do not aim at consensus. In line with “interpretative flexibility”, ongoing disagreements and different viewpoints side by side are more conductive to stimulate sales than the closure of design debates. This conclusion invites rethinking, who speaks in such debates and thus belongs to a “relevant social group”. Proposing the latter analytical notion Bijker and Pinch took inspiration in core-set studies of the Bath School. Not only is it necessary to rethink who influences and participates in contemporary cycling innovation processes, but also is it advisable to abandon the EPOR – SCOT analogy to substantiate socio-technical approaches to the study of cycling innovation.

Keywords: SCOT, dominant design, closure, stability, interpretative flexibility, relevant social group
Period27 Jun 2018
Event titleSmart Cycling Futures Workshop
Event typeConference
LocationEindhoven, NetherlandsShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Transportation

Fields of Expertise

  • Sustainable Systems