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Appropriate technology: An integrated framework for policy and practice

Willoughby, Kelvin W. (1986) Appropriate technology: An integrated framework for policy and practice. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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This dissertation is an interdisciplinary study in the emerging field of technology studies. It addresses the spread of controversy over the status and value of technological change and perceptions of increasing prominence of technology in society which have led to a marked growth of academic activity in recent decades centred on technology. Many commentators point to the problems of choosing between appropriate and inappropriate technology as of paramount importance. A substantial international social movement incorporating over one thousand organizations united under the rubric of" Appropriate Technology" has recently burgeoned in association with these factors.

Despite the vigour of the Appropriate Technology movement and the success of some of its projects there remains significant obstacles to the widespread adoption of the movement's proposals and there is a great deal of confusion as to the meaning of "Appropriate Technology"; it has also been subject to extensive criticism, much of which is quite virulent. A basic reason for the weaknesses of the Appropriate Technology movement and for the concomitant criticisms it has received is argued in this dissertation to be the lack of a clearly articulated conceptual framework. The provision of such a framework is the central purpose of this study.

The study begins with a critique of the semantic and conceptual confusion in the Appropriate Technology literature and relates this to certain unresolved problems in the technology studies literature in general. This is followed by a comprehensive review of Appropriate Technology detailing its historical and theoretical roots and its development into a multifarious social phenomenon. On the basis of this review and an analysis of the criticisms of the movement an integrated framework is synthesized which addresses the concerns of both protagonists and critics.

The study concludes with a detailed justification of the integrated framework at three levels. It examines the framework's conceptual cogency and universal applicability; it assesses its power to confront the obstacles to Appropriate Technology indicated by the criticisms of the concept; and, it illustrates the framework's power as a tool in policy making by demonstrating its applications to the field of employment policy.

It is argued that the obstacles to the achievement of the Appropriate Technology movement's goals are primarily meta-technical rather than technical and that they are reinforced by the failure to comprehend and properly apply the distinction between technology as artefacts and technology as a mode of technology-practice.

It is concluded that Appropriate Technology is most fruitfully viewed as a mode of technology-practice rather than as a collection of artefacts, that it is characterized by the harmonious integration of technical-empirical, socio-political and ethical-personal considerations and that, when comprehended as such, it has the potential to provide a framework for policy and implementation which is desirable and feasible for countries of both the South and the North.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Environmental and Life Sciences
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Newman, Peter
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