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Comparing two cases of outlaw innovation: Filesharing and legal highs

Chapter in book
Authors Johan Söderberg
Published in Critical Studies of Innovation: Alternative Approaches to the Pro-Innovation Bias / Edited by Benoît Godin and Dominique Vinck
Pages 115-136
ISBN 9781785366963
Publisher Edward Elgar Publishing
Place of publication Northampton, MA
Publication year 2017
Published at Department of Philosophy, Linguistics and Theory of Science
Pages 115-136
Language en
Keywords innovation studies controlled substances filesharing legal highs outlaw innovation
Subject categories Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology), Business Administration


Having learned that users too, and not only firms, contribute to innovation processes, a handful of innovation studies (IS) researchers are attending to “outlaw innovation.” Examples are computer hacking and filesharing. By comparing this empirical field with another one, users who circumvent controlled substance acts by inventing “legal highs,” the claim is made that lawbreaking goes to the heart of what innovation is all about. More precisely, innovation opens up a space outside of the constituted order. Conflicts over norms and legislation are motors in all innovation processes, not only in “outlaw innovation”. This leads on to the proposition, that sociological theories about value conflicts are more apt for understanding innovation processes, than are theories with more of a consensual bias, such as, for instance, those prevalent in innovation studies research.

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