The business of expectations: How promissory organizations shape technology and innovation

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The business of technological expectations has yet to be explored thoroughly by scholars interested in the role of expectations and visions in the emergence of technological innovations. However, intermediaries specializing in the production, commodification and selling of future-oriented knowledge have emerged to exert new kinds of influence on the shaping of technology and innovation. We focus on the work of those specialist forms of consultants known as 'industry analysts' and consider them as promissory organizations to capture how they are successful in mobilizing and indeed increasingly organizing expectations within procurement and innovation markets. Our aim is to highlight the important role these actors play in shaping technologies and, in so doing, to show how they typically exhibit complex and highly uneven forms of influence. The paper is organized around a central question: Why are certain kinds of promissory behaviour more influential than others? To answer this, we draw from discussions of the 'constitutive' nature of promises in the literature on technology expectations, which provide a useful but arguably partial analytical approach for articulating the dynamics and differences surrounding product based expectations. We thus supplement our understanding with recent developments in Economic Sociology and the Sociology of Finance where an ambitious theoretical framework is unfolding in relation to the 'performativity of economic theory'. By contrasting different forms of promissory work conducted by industry analysts and varying forms of accountability to which this work is subject, we begin to map out a typology that characterises promissory behaviour according to differences in kind and effect.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)525-548
Number of pages24
JournalSocial Studies of Science
Volume40
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2010

Keywords

  • expectations
  • Gartner
  • industry analysts
  • performativity

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