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Title: The evolution of discursive story-lines during socio-technical transitions : an analytical model applied to British and American road and rail transport during the twentieth century
Author: Roberts, John Cameron Dinsmore
ISNI:       0000 0004 6497 8083
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2015
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This thesis develops and tests an analytical model describing the development of discursive story-lines at the niche and regime levels during a socio-technical transition. The problem is considered from a longitudinal and symmetrical perspective, meaning that it accounts for both positive and negative story-lines about niche and regime technologies over the entire course of a transition. The conceptual background of this thesis comes from Marteen Hajer’s account of discursive story-lines, which actors use to make sense of complex phenomena and problems. This thesis develops a four-phase analytical model to describe how these story-lines make sense of niche and regime technologies during a transition. This model is based on insights from two theoretical fields. The first is transitions theory, which describes how the relationship between niche and regime technologies changes over time, and suggests four moments of struggle during a transition. The second of these is Snow and Benford’s theory of frame resonance, which suggests four discursive resources which determine the appeal of story-lines. By combining these two theories, it is possible to identify the discursive resources available to niche and regime actors at different struggles during a transition, and the content of the story-lines that will be based on these resources. This leads to an analytical model in which niche and regime story-lines go through four identifiable phases as a niche technology replaces an incumbent regime. During each phase, story-lines promoted by niche and regime actors are shaped by the relationship of the two technologies to each other, the influence this has on niche and regime actors’ access to the four discursive resources, and by the ‘cultural landscape’, which accounts for large-scale changes in public cultural repertories. This theory is tested using two case studies, based on primary historical research on the transition from a rail-dominated transport system to a road-dominated transport system in the United Kingdom and the United States. Each of these transitions is broken down into four periods corresponding to the four phases of the analytical model. For each period, research on newspapers, magazines, and political debates provides an account of the dominant story-lines in each period, which are then compared with the analytical model. The findings of this research demonstrate that with some modifications, the analytical model is plausible. This has important implications for transitions theory, most notably that negative story-lines can be a destabilising influence in a socio-technical regime. It is also an important contribution to the debate over the role of conflict, politics, and contested understandings of technology during a socio-technical transition.
Supervisor: Geels, Frank ; Sumner, James Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available