Greener Aviation Take-off (Delayed): Analysing Environmental Transitions with the Multi-Level Perspective

Graham Spinardi, Rebecca Slayton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the past fifty years, long-range commercial airliners have changed only incrementally from the paradigmatic design—a tube fuselage with swept wings and mostly-aluminum construction. Reducing the environmental impact of airliners may require radical innovations and a new paradigm, but the transition to a new paradigm is fraught with risks. This paper analyzes how key risks have shaped and limited efforts to transition toward three types of radical innovations that would significantly improve airliner fuel efficiency. We use these three cases to reassess the dominant framework for analyzing sociotechnical transitions—the multi-level perspective (MLP)—in light of methods and theoretical perspectives drawn from Science and Technology Studies (STS). We argue that if the MLP is to provide a robust framework for analyzing sociotechnical transitions, it must be refined in three ways. First, it must ‘open the black box’ to account for the ways that technologically-specific risks shape the transition process. Second, rather than predefining particular innovations as radical or conservative, ‘mature’ or ‘immature,’ it should attend to how actors conceive of such terms; an innovation which appears ‘mature’ to one group may appear ‘immature’ to another. Third, the MLP would be strengthened by additional case studies such as ours, which examine incomplete or failed transitions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-25
Number of pages25
JournalScience & Technology Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2015


  • Green Aviation
  • Transitions
  • Multi-Level Perspective


Dive into the research topics of 'Greener Aviation Take-off (Delayed): Analysing Environmental Transitions with the Multi-Level Perspective'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this