The Devil is in the Details

This chapter focuses on the kind of invention processes that arise in the behavioral context of “complex technological systems” (CTS). I define CTS as any technology that consists of a set of interacting artifacts; interactions among these artifacts – and people and sometimes environmental phenomena – enable that system to function. Because the archaeologist has wide latitude in interpreting the terms of this definition and because technological complexity is ostensibly a continuum (e.g., Oswalt 1976), the determination of whether a specific technology constitutes a CTS is necessarily driven by the archaeologist’s research problem. Given the flexibility of this definition, one can expect to discern CTSs in diverse – even small-scale – societies (see “Operationalizing the Cascade Model on Archaeological Cases”).

This chapter has five major sections: (1) general considerations concerning CTS-related invention processes, (2) elaboration of the cascade model, (3) illustration of the model with the development of the nineteenth-century electromagnetic telegraph, (4) discussion of the model’s applicability to small-scale societies, and (5) enumeration of the model’s broadest implications for studying technological change.


Technological Change Invention Process Inventive Activity Cascade Model Technological Object 
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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

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