Marc J. de Vries
Beyond the "Technology is
Applied Science" Paradigm
How Important is Science for Technological Innovation?
Nowadays we find much opposition against this paradigm and it is clear that we are going through a revolution in the Kuhnian sense ( Kuhn, 1970 ) from one paradigm to the next. But what will be the next paradigm? That is not always so clear. Some recent literature tends to swing towards the opposite and suggests that technology precedes science. The example of the steam engine is mentioned to illustrate that. Elsewhere, I described the development of a successful corkscrew by a Dutch company named Brabantia ( de Vries, 1994a ). In that study it became evident that scientific knowledge had only a very limited influence on the development of the product and the explanation for the great success of the corkscrew is only to a small extent based on clever use of knowledge of natural phenomena. Rather the success is the result of a clever use of the combination of scientific-technological know-how and know-how of social (market, juridical) phenomena. The case studies in aeronautics by Vincenti in his well known What Engineers Know and How They Know It confirm that. When he surveyed the various types of know-how that helped engineers to design their aircraft, he found that scientific knowledge is only one of several types ( Vincenti, 1990 ).
In almost all cases there seems to be no process in between the scientific knowledge and the technological product. The success of the product this way seems to be in the scientific knowledge. This paradigm could be used to support the "science for all" ideal that was preached as a result of for example, the Sputnik shock. Teach pupils scientific knowledge and later they will be the engineers that will be able to apply this knowledge for developing technological products. In the latest Workprogramme of the Targeted Socio-Economic Research (TSER) of the European Commission's Fourth Framework Programme, one of the research tasks is "Science and technology teaching as components of general education." But this is explained as: "approaches, concepts and methods in science teaching (including history and philosophy of science as a way of improving science understanding). Comparative research on the role of scientific education in the building knowledge and general education" and no reference is made to technology education at all!
As we saw before, the "technology is applied science" paradigm is challenged now. Does that mean that we also can move away from "science for all" and replace it by "Technology for all, science for some" or "Technology for all Americans" as is the title of a nationwide project in the USA ( Martin, 1995 )? Can we reduce the role of science education to that of "gate keeper" ( Gardner, 1995 ), which it already seems to fulfill in many cases? To answer that question wisely we have to consider the relationship between science and technology somewhat more carefully.
Based on the case studies that have been mentioned above and other cases (e.g., the Philips Stirling engine) one can identify at least three different types: experience-based technologies, macrotechnologies and microtechnologies. The Brabantia corkscrew is an example of an experience-based technology. Here the role of science is limited to knowledge of natural phenomena that was gained by experimentation and not by deriving it from fundamental theories. Such deductions are made in macrotechnologies, where the fundamental theories are the classical ones (mechanics, thermodynamics and electromagnetic) that are all concerned with macroscopic structures. Deductions from theories on microstructures play a vital role in microtechnologies, of which the transistor and the AMLCD's are examples. At first sight, this differentiation may seem similar to Bame and Cumming's differentiation into caft and machine, machine and power, and power, atomic and cybernetic levels of complexity ( Bame and Cummings, 1988 ). But it is different in nature.
As we have seen, the relative influence of scientific-technological and social factors is different for the different types of technologies and also varies as the development process goes on. Three caveats should be mentioned here. In the first place most products are combinations of elements some of which have been developed in an experience-based way, others in a macrotechnological way and others in a microtechnological way, as Sarlemijn and I described in the case of the Philips Plumbicon, a television pickup tube, that was developed in the Sixties ( Sarlemijn and de Vries, 1992 ). In the second place, sometimes there is a transition in the way products are developed. Bridges, for example, for a long time were developed purely on the basis of practical rules of thumb that were the result of many years of experience in designing bridges. Strauss (1964) gives examples from L. B. Alberti and C. Fontana in the 17th century. But later, due to a new type of engineers' training program in the French Ecole des Ponts et des Chaussees, civil engineers designed bridges by deriving and applying equations from Newton's laws of classical mechanics. And still experience-based knowledge plays a role in the design of sophisticated bridges, which makes designing them often a risky enterprise ( Petroski, 1994 ). The length of the cables in a suspension bridge can still not be predicted exactly, but is adapted even during the construction of the bridge. This is not unlike practice in the time of Dufour, who designed many of those bridges in the previous century.
It is useful to remark that it is a misunderstanding to think that science is less sensible to social influences and more objective and neutral. Pickering (1984) for example, has shown how scientific knowledge too can be described as a social construct. One can question if any of these approaches does justice to the role of scientific and technological factors. All of them seem to belong to what Mitcham (1994) called the humanities approach as opposed to the engineering approach. Based on case studies Sarlemijn and I proposed a different approach, which we called the "STeMPJE" ( Sarlemijn and de Vries, 1992 ; Sarlemijn, 1993 ). It has more the character to look at technology "from inside." STeMPJE is the acronym that represents all factors that we found to be relevant for describing technological innovations: scientific, technological, market, political, juridical and aesthetic factors. Several studies by mechanical engineering students in our Science, Technology and Society program showed the usability of this approach to help business companies determine their products strategy and not only for analyzing historical cases.
We also see that pupils hardly realize the variety of types of technology; they mainly see technology as "high tech" (or microtechnology). Sometimes they explicitly reject examples of experience based technologies as being technology (e.g., a wooden spoon or a plastic cup). This is at least partially caused by the way technology is presented in popular magazines, television programs, and so forth. Technology education has the task to make this concept of technology broader and more varied. The differentiation between types of technology as sketched above can be helpful to identify how to do this. We can only give pupils a proper understanding of the role of science in technological developments when we make them aware of the differences between different types of technology.
The short history of this discipline has shown that the naive idea that there can be one ideal prescription for any design process is not realistic. The need to distinguish between different design processes for different products is well established now, even though design handbooks with general flowchart diagrams for design processes are still published that seem to deny this (e.g., Pahl and Beitz, 1988 ). In technology education, we often have not discovered this yet, given the fact that several textbooks for technology education still seem to try to teach one overall scheme for designing to pupils. Maybe this can be useful to help pupils getting started with designing, but soon we should make them aware that different products may require different strategies for designing. Thereby, we should realize that in elementary and junior high school we probably have to limit ourselves to experience-based and macrotechnologies, because microtechnologies are often too abstract and advanced to deal with in those classes. The further we move on toward senior high school, the more differentiated the concept of technology pupils hold becomes. In the training of future technology teachers, all types of technologies may be dealt with and student teachers should learn to understand the differences between them.
Second, we should help pupils to integrate knowledge (scientific, but also other forms of knowledge) into their design processes. This is the only way design processes can be successful, as recent educational research has shown. It is evident that there is a role for science education here and that science education remains a crucial part of general education even where technology education has gone beyond the "technology is applied science" paradigm. Layton (1993) has indicated the various roles science can play for technology: 1) as a cathedral of fundamental research, from which experimental and quantitative methods for investigation and mathematical modeling can be drawn 2) as a quarry, from which scientists can pick out items they think they can use, and 3) as a company store, in which more dedicated "products" are provided for technologists. The last mentioned function is quite necessary. As studies by Vincenti, for example, have shown, scientific concepts often need to be transformed to become usable for technology. Third, we should realize that design processes should differ also because different people (pupils too) use different strategies for designing that fit their different personalities. Pupils can have quite different thinking preferences (in pictures or in words, more convergent or more divergent). We should not try to force them to use generalistic strategies that may not fit their personality. Finally, we should not only teach students to use scientific knowledge, but also knowledge about social phenomena (market requirements, laws, patents, political decisions, etc.). Thus they learn to recognize the complexity of real design processes, even though they do not yet need to cope with this full complexity themselves. Prospective technology teachers should learn how to guide that process and how to deal with the dilemma between a directive versus a more laissez-faire approach.
To make use of the new knowledge about the relationship between science and technology in the context of Science, Technology and Society (STS) programs, a structural co-operation between technology education programs and academic STS programs is important. The organization of the Technology Education Distinguished Lecture of Spring 1996 at Virginia Tech (co-sponsored by the STS program) is a good example of such a cooperation that can help technology educators to build a more sound academic basis for their school subject. Another need for technology education in terms of the science-technology relationship is educational research with respect to how pupils see this relationship and how their ideas may be changed in technology education. In general, the educational research basis for technology still needs to be strengthened and extended. Here a lot can be gained from experiences in science education, where many studies into the conceptions that pupils have of scientific concepts and principles have been reported ( de Vries, 1994 ). In the building up of a sound educational research base for technology education and the translation of the outcomes to teachnology education and technology teacher training, there is certainly a challenge for all those who feel committed to technology education as a valuable contribution to the general education of all future citizens.
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de Vries, M. J. (1996a). Teaching quality tools in technology education: A design methodological perspective. In: Mottier, I., Raat, J. H. and de Vries, M. J. (Eds.). Teaching technology for entrepreneurship and employment. Proceedings PATT-7 Conference . Pretoria: Via Africa Publishers.
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Marc J. de Vries is Assistant Professor, Philosophy and Methodology of Technology, Faculty of Technology Management, Eindhoven University of Technology, Eindhoven, The Netherlands. Dr. de Vries presented this paper at Virginia Tech in March 1996, as a part of the Technology Education Program's "Distinguished Lecture Series" and Fiftieth Anniversary commemoration activities.