Technology, the technology complex and the paradox of technological determinism

Fleck, James and Howells, John (2001). Technology, the technology complex and the paradox of technological determinism. Technology Analysis and Strategic Management, 13(4) pp. 523–531.



This paper examines the working definitions of the term 'technology' across a range of disciplines such as industrial relations, organizational behaviour, operations management and development economics. The precise 'subdefinition' of technology in use depends on the disciplinary problematic. We develop a conceptual device called the technology complex to reveal the pattern that is observable when a large number of subdefinitions are compared. The technology complex is a list of the distinctive 'elements' that comprise the disciplinary subdefinitions of technology and it orders this list of elements from the 'physical' to the 'cultural'. The technology complex captures the idea that a working definition of technology will be some selection from the elements of the complex. The technology complex also captures the idea that in its most general sense 'technology' is 'knowledge related to artefacts'. We apply the technology complex to the issue of determinism in technological and social change using the examples of aircraft design and robotics. We argue that there is not an 'either—or' issue between the social and the technological influences on change since the terms are not distinct: 'technology' always includes some aspect of the social. We show how what appears to be 'technological determinism' in the examples of aircraft design and robotics use can be understood through the technology complex.

Viewing alternatives


Public Attention

Altmetrics from Altmetric

Number of Citations

Citations from Dimensions
No digital document available to download for this item

Item Actions