Kingery, W. David "Technological Systems and Some Implications with
Regard to Continuity and Change, " History from Things: Essays on Material
Culture. Ed. Steven Lubar and W. David Kingery. Washington, DC: Smithsonian
Institution Press, 1993.
Kingery defines technology as the design, creation, distribution and
use of artifacts. Technology is the mediator between human behavior and
the material environment; it is
"codified ways of deliberately manipulating the environment to achieve
some material object." (qtd. in National Academy of Sciences Committee
on Science and Public Policy 1969).
Kingery contrasts technology as the manufacturing process (so understood
by archeologists and art historians) with technology as the design process
(so understood by historians of technology). He also contrasts the traditional
system of classifying artifacts according to the end-products of engineering
processes with a task-oriented grouping that allows a comparison of the
complexity of the product at various stages. Finally Kingery offers a somewhat
more complex artifact-centered "technological social" system which allows
the historian to discuss the recycling and redistribution of products.
Kingery's system includes the aesthetic and cultural considerations bound
up in the production of a product.
Kingery cites the development of Italian istoriato ware during the
last quarter of the 15th century as the coming together of two separate
"species" of art, and, while noting that pottery is a follower, not a leader
of social change, he explores the context that permitted the development
of this tri-layered, vividly colored, essentially pictorial pottery. His
examination of istoriato ware suggests some conclusions about technological
continuity and change. He suggests that the banking system of the Italian
cities permitted the development of new wealth, new urban behavior, and
new manners. The price of labor and materials was reasonable; public display
of tableware became a part of the new consumer behavior; thus there was
a market for the new tableware.
Kingery offers some general observations on the slow currents of social
and technological change.
Invention of a new technology is essentially an individual achievement...that
recurs from time to time but rarely becomes part of the archaeological
or historical record. It is only when innovation brings an invention into
technological practice that we see its spoor; this sort of innovation has
usually been treated ... as involving both perceived utility and entrepreneurial
action. Once adopted, an accepted empirical successful technology invariably
becomes conservative and subsequent modifications are gradual and incremental.
While acknowledging its limitations, he offers as a simplified tenet
that " a radical change in design technology ... or manufacturing technology
invariable implies a change in use technology and vice versa." Kingery
concludes that "the impetus leading to istoriato maiolica was a change
perception of the value and role of technical expertise in the urban society
of Renaissance Italy."