Institutional Logics and the Challenges of Assembling Agri-Food Technologies

Monday, 16 July 2018: 15:30
Oral Presentation
Vaughan HIGGINS, Charles Sturt University, Australia
Melanie BRYANT, University of Tasmania, Australia
In a recent article, Carolan (2017) calls for a re-shaping of the debate around how sociologists think and talk about agri-food based technologies. Specifically, Carolan argues that debate should shift from one in which technology is part of a pre-established pattern of structural change and power relations, to a more relational approach that looks at the effects particular socio-technical forms engender. We expand on this argument by suggesting that a relational approach to technology should also be attentive to the fragile and contingent ways in which socio-technical forms are assembled and held together. This issue has been given limited attention to date, and is one that we engage with in this paper through the application of an institutional logics framework. Institutional logics are the broad social and belief systems in which institutions operate that shape members’ behaviours and cognitions. Central to the theory of institutional logics is the notion of the shared logic in which a common belief system guides and shapes the behaviour of all actors. Drawing upon qualitative data from a project focusing on the social factors influencing technology adoption in the Australian rice industry, we argue that efforts to implement new technology are complicated by tensions that arise within and across institutional logics that operate at different levels of policy practice.Specifically, we are interested in how different actors within the same industry interpret shared institutional logics and the ambiguities that arise in relation to the prioritising of different technologies and change initiatives. In doing so, we focus on three particular logics: a) the strategic-technical logic, which guide the overall strategy of the industry; b) the tactical-epistemic logic that guides the implementation of technology, and c) the operational-material logic, which guides the promotion of new technology at farm-level.