On June 12 and 13, 1986 the Centre of Canadian Studies at Edinburgh University held a seminar on 'Technological and Social Change' and colleagues at Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario organized a parallel meeting on the same theme. Both the topic and the form of the meetings were similar to an earlier collaborative venture held in October 1984, the intention being to continue the interesting and fruitful 'conversations' between Britain and Canada on a matter of considerable importance to scholars in both countries. As on the previous occasion, the 1986 seminar had one session during which participants on both sides of the Atlantic were able to see and talk to each other through the medium of a satellite TV transmission.
The Edinburgh seminar was attended not only by speakers from Canada and the United Kingdom but by others from France, Holland and the United States. The range of topics discussed was wide, but central to most of the papers was a concern with the social shaping of technology. Over recent years, researchers in a number of disciplines have attempted to complement the interest in the effects of technical change with studies of the specifically social processes that affect the creation, use and diffusion of new technology. Edinburgh, with its tradition of work on the sociology of scientific knowledge, has a number of scholars particularly committed to this perspective and one of the purposes of the 1986 seminar was to bring together writers whose researches and reflections were contributing to the development of the 'social shaping' approach. The papers in this volume do not represent the full range of the Edinburgh meeting - still less do they give proper coverage to the Canadian-British dimension of the seminar and the topics considered at Queen's University. Instead, they have been selected to illustrate how a particular style of analysis is being elaborated and how the insights of historians, economists, sociologists and political scientists around the world are converging and informing each other. Several excellent papers then have regretfully been omitted from this book, but readers can obtain them (and selected papers from the 1984 meeting) from the Centre of Canadian Studies at Edinburgh University ( 21 George Square, Edinburgh EH8 9LD).