Introduction to Science and Technology Studies

Table of contents


For the purpose of the analysis of Science & Technology Studies (STS) this case study identifies the article “Studying Obduracy in the City: Toward a Productive Fusion between Technology Studies and Urban Studies” by Anique Hommels. The author tries to provide better understanding of the dynamics presupposed with the urban life. It makes special points on scientific and technical factors which tend to keep the balance for the growth of the cities. However, the author focuses more on the fact of the city obduracy, as an inseparable element of the contemporary city life and construction.

Both technology and urban studies are outlined to be the ground for obduracy in the city. Moreover, the theoretical approach encounters quite many facts to prove the point of the author. One should keep it in mind that the article is aimed at promoting the overall analysis of the sociotechnical development and change in the city and how it appeals to the obduracy, as a social phenomenon. This is why the issue of obduracy is analyzed in the article in terms of urban and technology studies (Hommels, 2005). In this respect the study proposed and further deeply analyzed by Hommels (2005) requires counter investigation of the main points discussed in the article and applied to the sphere of critical analysis. Hence, the author of the article responds to the explanatory analysis of STS, as the obduracy appears not as often as applied to this field of study, to make the kind and the form of analysis to a broader point and further reflexivity.

Critical analysis

The STS author is quite explanatory to make a point of theoretical and practical implementations of the issue of obduracy in terms of current research. This provides a ground for further identification of the subject matter itself and its prerequisites, in particular. The author provides some features of the description, of course, to put an observer into the picture. It is based mainly on the elements of technology and urban studies perplexed into a wholeness of principles and justifications of different sort.  On the other side, the author uses description to provide a frame for thorough analysis of the basic claims. It is possible to suggest that technologies and the city are inseparable and have emerged as a result of the human progress in scientific and technological approaches. Thus, this STS study should be thought of as a trivial one.

Hommels (2005) highlights three heuristic models fitting the obduracy of technology and urban life, namely: frames, embeddedness, and persistent traditions. All basic elements of the discussion are explained in their characteristic features and cross-relational background. Hence, the explanation prevails over description in the study under investigation. It is critically to mention that the hypothesis maintained by Hommels (2005) stems from the technology as a part of the city and its integral constituent on the whole. In this respect it is evidenced on the example of persistent interactions between different groups of actors who are aimed at having more benefits involving different technologies.

The analyst in the study provides a fair assumption that the obduracy in technological life of the city is a product of frames in which people live and interact with each other (Hommels, 2005). A slight variation of obduracy may solely be concerned with the cultural and traditional aspects going on in the society, as a part of urban environment. To say more, the analyst attempts initially to apply some conceptual features in order to explain the role of the main actors and participants. It is all about concepts of mental model and technological frame (Hommels, 2005). However, the gist of the study faces its explanatory character due to the correlation analysis of the proposed models.

On the other hand, applying embeddedness, the analyst identifies the role of the participants in their tight interactions as a straightforward implication of obduracy in terms of the sociotechnical symbiosis (Hommels, 2005). It requires one to dwell on this model and reach out social equilibrium notwithstanding different misbalances in applying STS to various societal and political models appropriate to definite cities. Another point the analysts admits in the study is that the traditional connections are strong and full of stability for different groups of actors (Hommels, 2005).

There is no way for those who feel they can escape out of the net of different traditions and morale being in evidence within the society. Moreover, the analyst runs into the controversy which appeared in the course of the research. It considers differences (in frames) as opposed to similarities (persistent traditions) among social groups. Hence, the sticking point of the discussion as of actors and analyst role reached its apogee when providing explanatory analysis of the aforementioned three models proposed by Hommels (2005).

Sociological development of human relationships is fairly one of the most powerful factors underlining human behaviors and their aptness at launching as more technological approaches as possible. This standpoint is also critical when the author focuses more on the historical framework for STS and the issue of obduracy, as a result of suchlike application of scientific and technological innovations in the society. Thereupon, the author is impartial with respect to involving multifaceted theoretical approaches in order to identify the extent of technological obduracy. It is well evidenced when Hommels (2005) draws attention to the roles of human and non-human actors and the paramount place of social groups to be the main actors for the research.

Conversely, the idea of the analyst is supported by actor network theory (ANT) and social construction of technology (SCOT) which are discussed in their controversial applicability to the subject of obduracy in technologies and urban studies (Hommels, 2005). The voice of the author responds to a backside assumptive character, as though, she discovers the focal point of the overall issue for the first time. This implication serves as a complete suggestion to STS on the whole and obduracy in technologies, in particular.

In the continuum of mental models and technological progress appeared in the society earlier the author is more aimed at reshaping the picture of urban technology by dint of investigating the phenomenon of obduracy (Hommels, 2005). Owing to this very concern some analytics may suppose the author not impartial in her suggestions and overall analysis of the problem. It makes an alleged impediment in considering this study non-biased. However, once again, the main attention should be grabbed to the way the models applied in the study and the variability of approaches the author uses to point them out. In these issues there is no impartiality, as might be seen.

The form of the analysis is based on the implications of networks and symmetry in sociological viewpoint. This is why the author admits the prior role of SCOT and ANT for making more emphasis on the implementation of obduracy or identifying obdurate features in a city full of technological innovations of time. Along with the large technical systems (LTS), the author prescribes this exclusive role of SCOT and ANT, as “relational theories of contemporary cities” (Hommels, 2005, p. 329). This idea embraces the interactions between relevant social groups taking notice of the “principle of generalized symmetry” (Hommels, 2005, p. 343). This makes the research relied on the networks of human relationships which symbolize direct ways and restrictions for further analysis.

In this way of thinking one should be accurate in bringing about the meaning of being used to “analyze the design and use of specific technological artifacts” (Hommels, 2005, p. 331). In this respect it would be rational to perceive the overall form of analysis in terms of the interactionist conception from the outset. However, further slighter observation of previous studies drives the author toward choosing technological frame and mental model to provide symmetry in highlighting the value of technological artifacts. Moreover, the gist of the research is more concerned with the philosophical interpretations of sociotechnical models implied and elaborated in contemporary cities. A deep insight is promoted to depict the building reality of the city with its inseparable (as was mentioned before) technological frame.

The author uses approaches being familiar in the inter-disciplinary study of STS. This argument flows out of the ideas of other authors who made STS more developed and organized into a separate discipline. The author uses constructivist theories of Joerges, Law, Latour, and Callon in order to prove the sense of obduracy and technologies for the society on the material (practical) level (Hommels, 2005). Implicitly, it manifests author’s aptness at using applicable approaches and theories in order to point out the feasibility and validity of such.

Once again, the author leads toward using ANT, LTS and SCOT approaches linked in their direct appeal toward technological obduracy and obdurate cities, particularly. These approaches take place in explaining and understanding all of three models outlined by the author. Hence, the research is done with respect to previously known and frequently used in STS approaches and theoretical backgrounds. Sociotechnical, architectural, philosophical, and scientific approaches are in evidence for the article under investigation. Hommels (2005) makes the following assumption on the applicability of approaches used in her study: “STS may thus have a wider applicability than hitherto assumed because STS concepts can also be fruitfully applied to larger artifacts such as cities” (344).

The author seeks for no enemies but allies in his assumptive research. It is shown in the fact that the author tries to leave the issue of obduracy in urban life open toward the rest of scholars sparking interest in this field of the scientific research. The main argument for the above mentioned statement is as follows:

Surely, I hope that other STS scholars will be encouraged to explore the city as a strategic research site. By the same token, I would be gratified if urban scholars have become convinced that STS concepts can be especially useful when analyzing processes of urban sociotechnical change – a topic that urban scholars have dealt with from their perspectives (Hommels, 2005, p. 344).

This gives grounds to state that the author does not want to outline a group of scholars sympathetic to her, nor she wants to blow the criticism on the opponents. Conducted in a general form, her hopes leave much place for further assumptions and methodological treatment useful for investigating obduracy in the city where technological frame has become a superstructure of the social life. Hence, Hommels’s article is suggesting the general public of observers and scholars at stake. It illuminates author’s huge concern growing out of the basic points outlined in the study. Thus, the value of the research covers broader groups of scholars in the field of STS.

In a broader point of view, the study requires more concerns as of historical and political frameworks maintained in different societies (Hommels, 2005). In this respect there is plenty to talk about the city structure and its parts in terms of life cycle and usefulness for human beings. In this case the author raises some assumptions on the capacity of social groups, as a result of economical and political reformation going hand in hand with the scientific and technological approaches. In a “sociotechnical ensemble” urban studies acquire the implication of urban policies which result in the embeddedness model of obduracy.

Looking at this matter from more sociological point of view, the author provides a concise criticism of historical aspects in measuring the continuum of the precursors reflecting the entire essence of an obdurate city life. Thereupon, Hommels (2005) remarks that “urban historians were among the first to acknowledge the importance of technology in the city” (Hommels, 2005, p. 324). The question is about the artifacts of technological implementation in the cities, i.e. roads, bridges, squares, underground, etc. It is thought of to be a never-ending start of higher inventions and renovations in urban life. Thus, obduracy in technologies has political and economic coloring in its subject matter.

In accordance to reflexivity outlined in the study, the analyst is socially realistic in discussing and analyzing previous and current STS studies. It claims for more appreciation on the part of scholarly-conscientious audience. Hommels (2005) in her article is externally oriented, as she moves toward multifaceted approaches in identifying the power of technological variable in the urban norms of living. On the other hand, it is all about focusing on “conceptualizations of the process that involve the negotiations and attempts at undoing the sociotechnical status quo in a city, changing the taken-for-grantedness of its reality, and making its obduracy flexible” (Hommels, 2005, p. 324).

Hereby, the author maintains an external viewpoint to make observers reflect the cornerstone “bricks” of the analysis provided in the article. The author centers her discussion on the complicated character of the models chosen for the research. In addition, Hommels (2005) puts it into the picture that the variety of the methods and approaches used in the research provide ambiguity in considering obduracy in the cities both valid and non-valid to be further imposed into scholar researches of different authors afterwards. This implication drives one toward points on reflexivity, as being common for the urban and technological studies in their reference to STS. Such an inter-disciplinary ensemble runs the gamut of scientific discoveries.


  • Hommels, A. (2005). Studying Obduracy in the City: Toward a Productive Fusion between Technology Studies and. Science, Technology, & Human Values , 30 (3), 323-351.

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