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. (224)
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."