From ‘Alternative’ to ‘Advanced’: Mainstreaming of Sustainable Technologies
This paper revisits some technologies that, in the 1970s, were considered as ‘low-tech’ alternatives to mainstream versions, but more recently have been developed using high-tech elements. This change from alternative to advanced is analysed as a process called sociotechnical mainstreaming, whereby technologies are transformed by the dominant R&D institutions and/or industry. The paper aims to clarify what is involved in such processes of mainstreaming, and how they affect the fate of the alternative technology legacy, not only in terms of being ecological but also their production being craft-based, decentralised and with some form of local control. This is explored through three examples: wind turbines, electric cars, and ecological architecture. Four mainstreaming processes are identified: pragmatic, expansive, dominant design and conceptual. More empirical research is called for to further develop the concept of mainstreaming.