ABSTRACT

How do social scientists construct large technical systems and networks? * For a long time, academic studies of technology in the social sciences were not unduly concerned with technical ensembles like LTSs: technology research was not part of the canon, and social sciences outside the history of technology did not engage in technology research on a broad scale until the early 1980s. At that time, Renate Mayntz, Thomas P. Hughes, Todd La Porte, Gene Rochlin and others opened up a new research field: ‘large technical systems’, or LTSs, ‘the modern transportation, communication and supply systems, which one might subsume under the heading infrastructural systems, since their primary function consists of enabling a multitude of specific activities to take place’ (Mayntz 1988: 233). An international research network was developed and cultivated, a series of conferences took place in Berlin (1986); Cologne (1987); Berkeley (1989); Sydney (1991); Vadstena, Sweden (1993); Autun, France (1995). A number of conference publications appeared (Mayntz and Hughes 1988, La Porte 1991, Summerton 1994b and this volume). Empirical and comparative research got underway in various places; something like a research community, with its characteristic ‘discourses’, evolved. 1