Multi-Level Perspective (MLP)

Update 25 May 2018  Actually, there’s a thing about the nature of regimes within the MLP that I have to get a better hold of for my discussion chapter. So, am doing some reading and writing: with luck even a bit of thinking.  Will blog about these five below and the Sorrell 2018 piece too.

Olufolahan Osunmuyiwa, Frank Biermann & Agni Kalfagianni (2018) Applying
the multi-level perspective on socio-technical transitions to rentier states: the case of renewable energy transitions in Nigeria, Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning, 20:2, 143-156, DOI: 10.1080/1523908X.2017.1343134

Stijn van Ewijk  Re-inventing the multi-level perspective for technological transitions: a more rigorous tool for analysis and two case studies

Ollivier, G., D. Magda, A. Mazé, G. Plumecocq, and C. Lamine. 2018. Agroecological transitions: What can sustainability transition frameworks teach us? An ontological and empirical analysisEcology and Society 23(2):5.

Paul Upham et al (2018) Agency and structure in a sociotechnical transition: Hydrogen fuel cells, conjunctural knowledge and structuration in Europe. Energy Research & Social Science Volume 37 , March 2018, Pages 163-174

O., Nadaï A. (2018) How to Inquire About Energy Transition Processes?. In: Labussière O., Nadaï A. (eds) Energy Transitions. Energy, Climate and the Environment. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham


Update- 9 May 2018.  After I am done with this PhD (soon) I will do a proper job on this particular page.  For now, dear reader, know that there are two excellent new papers about the MLP.

Sorrell, 2018:  “Explaining sociotechnical transitions: A critical realist perspective,”  in Research Policy, does a great job on explaining the (incompatible?) underpinnings of the MLP – structuration and critical realist perspectives.  It’s a hard read because he is really gettin gto the root of things. I am about three quarters of the way through, and will need to re-read some more.

While he was writing that paper, another one was published (so perhaps read that first? I haven’t been so organised…

Svensson, O and Nikoleris, A 2018. Structure reconsidered: towards new foundations of explanatory transitions theory Research Policy, 47 (2018), pp. 462-473

Those should keep you out of mischief for a little bit…

For now, from wikipedia (!!)

Levels within sociotechnical systems[edit]

Most literature recognises that there are three separate levels that Transition Management must work within; Landscape, Regime and Niche:.[10][14]

  • Regime (Meso) refers to the dominant practices, rules and technologies that provide stability and reinforcement to the prevailing socio-technical systems.

Technological regimes are defined as a set of rules embedded in an engineering community’s institutions and infrastructure which shape technological innovations.[15][16] . Geels [17] expanded the focus from engineers to include a wider of range of social groups such as policy makers, financiers and suppliers. This web of inter-linking actors, following a set of rules was termed ‘socio-technical regime’, in effect, the established practices of a given system. Drawing on evolutionary economics; socio-technical regimes act as a selection and retention mechanism, filtering out the unsuccessful while incorporating more worthy innovations into the existing regime.[17][18] The regime sits at the meso-level, sandwiched between the micro-level of the niche and the macro-level of the landscape.[19] Change occurs at the regime level incrementally and is geared to achieving optimization. Radical change is potentially threatening to the vested interests of the established regime.[16] The inertia of key industries is seen as an explanation of the difficulties in achieving transitions to sustainability.[20]

  • Niche (Micro) is the level or ‘area’ at which the space is provided for radical innovation and experimentation. This level is less subject to market and regulation influences and can facilitate the interactions between actors that support product innovation.

Radical innovations occur in niches, which act as safe environments in which breakthrough developments can grow, sheltered from the selection process that occurs at regime level.[17] A regime may host a range of niches which generate innovations to challenge the status-quo. The military is seen as a primary niche for major technologies of the last century, supporting the development of radio, aircraft, computers and the internet.[17] The framework of support provided can be financial (most early ventures being commercially unviable); establishing learning processes and facilitating the social networks that lead to growth.[17]

  • Landscape (Macro) refers to the overall socio-technical setting that encompasses both the intangible aspects of social values, political beliefs and world views and the tangible facets of the built environment including institutions and the functions of the marketplace such as prices, costs, trade patterns and incomes.

These processes occur within the wider political, cultural and economic background termed the socio-technical landscape. The landscape is an external backdrop to the interplay of actors at the regime and niche level.[17] Changes can occur in the landscape but much more slowly than regime level. One such change is the increase in environmental awareness [21] This socio-cultural process is leading to pressure on numerous regimes (aviation, agriculture etc.) whilst providing openings for new technologies to establish themselves.

Multi-level Perspective Geels [17] presents the interplay between regime, niche and landscape concepts as a multi-level perspective depicting technological transitions. The model is heuristic rather than ontological, and is an aid to better understand the process.

Figure 1: A Dynamic multi-level perspective on Technological transition at: Geels and Schot: 2007[22]

Ongoing processes at the regime and landscape level present ‘windows of opportunity’ for new technologies to exploit and become established. These breakthroughs tend to occur gradually through niche-accumulation. As innovations are used in multiple applications they build until achieving a critical mass. The model proposed by Geels shows how the success of a new technology requires developments across all levels to support the processes occurring within the niche (figure 1). Such an alignment is the basis of a regime shift[16]

As it relates to The Wire

The landscape is the big picture stuff like de-industrialisation (see season 2!), the collapse of the tax-base, the flight of the middle-classes (Carcetti talks about this), the coming of cheap deadly drugs, the collapse of social institutions.

The regime is different in the 5seasons

The Police Department operates alongside the politicians (their priorities, their budget setting – which is constrained by state-and-federal decisions), in opposition to the drugs gangs.  But there are other “regimes” (or social systems) explored throughout the show.

The niche actors – we will come to that and them.  Hamsterdam, possibly Omar.  Niche actors sometimes attempt to change/maintain the regime, with varying succcess  etc etc…

I could tell you more, but there’d be spoilers….

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