Designing Technology, Developing Theory: Toward a Symmetrical Approach

Cornelius Schubert*, Andreas Kolb

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
36 Downloads (Pure)


We focus on collaborative activities that engage computer graphics designers and social scientists in systems design processes. Our conceptual symmetrical account of technology design and theory development is elaborated as a mode of mutual engagement occurring in an interdisciplinary trading zone, where neither discipline is placed at the service of the other and nor do disciplinary boundaries dissolve. To this end, we draw on analyses of mutual engagements between computer and social scientists stemming from the fields of computer-supported cooperative work, human−computer interaction, and science and technology studies (STS). We especially build on theoretical work in STS concerning information technology in health care and extend recent contributions from STS with respect to the modes of engagement and trading zones between computer and social sciences. We conceive participative digital systems design as a form of inquiry for the analysis of cooperative work settings, particularly when social science becomes part of design processes. We illustrate our conceptual approach using data from an interdisciplinary project involving computer graphics designers, sociologists, and neurosurgeons with the aim of developing patient-centered visualizations for clinical cooperation on a hospital ward.

Original languageEnglish
JournalScience, technology & human values
Early online date14 Jul 2020
Publication statusPublished - May 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • cooperative work
  • digitalSTS
  • ethnography
  • health care
  • interdisciplinary design


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