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Master's Thesis Exam: Igor Domladis

Causes and Effects of Technological Momentum During the Development of the Steamship System, c. 1800 - c. 1900

2020.01.06 | Randi Mosegaard

Date Thu 09 Jan
Time 15:00 16:00
Location Koll G (1532-214)

Abstract

The aim of this paper is to answer how was technological development of the steam-powered ship able to happen rapidly, compared to other periods of ship building history. In other words, I am looking to explain the development of the “technological system” surrounding the steam ship and its effects on its “environment”. I will apply Thomas P. Hughes’ theory of evolution of Large Technical Systems (LTS) because the evolution of the steam engine and the steam ship can be explained through LTS concepts such as “reverse salients”, “technological momentum” and to a certain extent, “load factor”. I will explore if using a Social Construction of Technology theory (SCOT) may provide us with a better framework to explain the development of the steamship system. Examples of inventors associated with the steam ship behaving like Hughes’ “system builder” will provide further justification for choosing LTS theory over SCOT. In the end the conclusion will be that evolution of technologies and related systems does not happen on its own but is a result of effort of system builders, who build according to the technical logic of the artifacts. Concretely, I will argue three points: 1) System builders are crucial to the development of a large technical system. Without them it is unlikely the steamship system would have developed; 2) The development happened rapidly because there were a lot of system builders; 3) Contrary to Bijker and Pinch, those who used the steamship system had very little impact on its initial, technical design.

Masters degree exam