Assessing transitions through socio-technical configuration analysis – a methodological framework and a case study in the water sector

Jonas Heiberg*, Bernhard Truffer, Christian Binz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Classic accounts of transitions research have predominantly built on reconstructions of historical transition processes and in-depth case studies to identify and conceptualize socio-technical change. While such approaches have substantively improved our understanding of transitions, they often suffer from methodological nationalism and a lack of generalizability beyond spatial and sectoral boundaries. To address this gap, we propose a novel methodology – socio-technical configuration analysis (STCA) – to map and measure socio-technical alignment processes across time and space. STCA provides a configurational and dynamic perspective on how social and technical elements get aligned into “configurations that work”, allowing for the identification of differentiated transition trajectories at and across spatial and sectoral contexts. The methodology's value is illustrated with the empirical case of an ongoing shift from centralized to more modular infrastructure configurations in the global water sector. Building on this illustration, we outline potential contributions of STCA to configurational theorizing in transition studies, sketching the contours of what we believe could become a generative epistemological approach for this field.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104363
Pages (from-to)1-19
JournalResearch Policy
Volume51
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022

Keywords

  • Discourse
  • Geography of transitions
  • Modular water technologies
  • Socio-technical alignments
  • Socio-technical configuration analysis

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