From "forces of production" to "forces of customization"

A new line of research might open-up if we read David Noble‘s Forces of Production again and ask “what is the relevance for contemporary packaged software”? Noble, who recently passed-away last December, wrote what is arguably one of the best books in STS’s past about the role of managerial power to determine the direction of technological development, much of which is accomplished by selecting one technology over another to foster toward future development. Additionally, Noble keyed us all to the idea of the “path not traveled” wherein we consider “what might have been” had another road been traveled (i.e., another technology [or no technology] been selected).

In some ways, I think Noble’s work appears old-fashioned to new scholars (despite his excellent empirical material). But maybe not.

If we can extend his ideas about managerial power being augmented by selecting one technology over another toward an analysis that predicts that managerial power is instead augmented by iteratively selecting the ongoing customized form of a flexible technology (i.e., an ongoing process rather than conceptualized as a nominal, usually binary, decision breakpoint).

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