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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The social dynamics of technical innovation in the computing world


The "computing world," all those people and groups that collectively produce computers and computer-based services is an especially complex, dynamic and diffuse social world. Technical innovation is a dominant feature of the world. It is organized to provide a continuous flow of innovations from participants who specialize in innovation through many other participants to the final consumers of computer-based services. Technical innovations often flow across a large number of "markets" which are composed of only a few classes of participants such as "innovators" and "vendors" or of "users" and "consumers."

This paper identifies the major orientations taken on by participants in the computing world and examines some of the markets across which innovations are negotiated. The computing world is organized so that each market is biased in favor of innovations moving from suppliers to their customers. From this viewpoint, "innovation" is a dominant structural interest in computing around which participants organize their activities and to which they must continually adjust.

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