Prometheus at the wheel : Representations of road transport informatics

University dissertation from Linköping : Linköpings universitet

Abstract: The dissertation deals with the challenge of developing information technology for road transport, a field often referred to as Road Transport Informatics. Oskar Juhlin studies in particular how engineers cope with the contingent and social aspects of the design process and of road use. The technical artifacts, actors, and representations of the systems that the engineers deal with are blurred and unstable. This becomes visible e.g when engineers interpret workability and performance of the systems differently in different situations.Juhlin argues, with reference to recent research in the sociology of science and technology, that the engineers exploit and cope with the contingencies by enrolling whatever elements are available on a local level. They make their own position gradually stronger to construct a persuasive image of their work. An important indication of how engineers establish such persuasive images of technical workability is the amount of talk and writing that accompanies with the artifacts themselves. Technology never appears on its own. It is always surrounded by various forms of texts on how to use it, what it consists of and what it represents. But the engineering rhetoric consists of more than just words. It combines audiences, written texts, technical artifacts and persuasive talk, to establish agreements on the character and benefits of new systems. Particularly important practices examined in this thesis are technical testing and technical demonstrations, pursued in laboratories, construction departments, and at test sites.

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