Shifting perspectives: holography and the emergence of technical communities

Johnston, S.F. (2005) Shifting perspectives: holography and the emergence of technical communities. Technology and Culture, 46(1), pp. 77-103.



Publisher's URL:


Holography, the technology of three-dimensional imaging, has repeatedly been reconceptualised by new communities. Conceived in 1947 as a means of improving electron microscopy, holography was revitalized in the early 1960s by engineer-scientists at classified laboratories. The invention promoted the transformation of a would-be discipline (optical engineering) and spawned limited artist-scientist collaborations. However, a separate artisanal community promoted a distinct countercultural form of holography via a revolutionary technology: the sandbox optical table. Their tools, sponsorship, products, literature and engagement with wider culture differentiated the communities, which instituted a limited ‘technological trade’. The subject strikingly illustrates the co-evolution of new technology along with highly dissimilar user groups, neither of which fostered the secure establishment of a profession or discipline. The case generalises the concept of 'research-technologists' and 'peripheral science', and extends the ideas of Langdon Winner by demonstrating how the political dimensions of a technology can be important but evanescent in the growth of technical communities.

Item Type:Articles
Keywords:professions; holography; research technology; peripheral science; technical communities; emerging science
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Johnston, Professor Sean
Authors: Johnston, S.F.
Subjects:Q Science > Q Science (General)
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Interdisciplinary Studies
Journal Name:Technology and Culture
Publisher:The Johns Hopkins University Press
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2005 The Johns Hopkins University Press
First Published:First published in Technology and Culture 46(1):77-103
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher

University Staff: Request a correction | Enlighten Editors: Update this record

Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
339051Holography, holographers, and their historySean JohnstonCarnegie UK Trust (CARNEGIE)UNSPECIFIEDInterdisciplinary Studies
339052Holography, holographers, and their historySean JohnstonBritish Academy (BRIT-ACAD)SG-34511Interdisciplinary Studies
339053Holography, holographers, and their historySean JohnstonShearwater Foundation (SHEARWATER)UNSPECIFIEDIS - INTERDISCIPLINARY STUDIES