• Publications
  • Influence
Trust and technology: the social foundations of aviation regulation.
  • John Downer
  • Sociology, Medicine
  • The British journal of sociology
  • 1 March 2010
This paper looks at the dilemmas posed by 'expertise' in high-technology regulation by examining the US Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) 'type-certification' process, through which theyExpand
“737-Cabriolet”: The Limits of Knowledge and the Sociology of Inevitable Failure1
  • John Downer
  • Sociology
  • American Journal of Sociology
  • 1 November 2011
This article looks at the fateful 1988 fuselage failure of Aloha Airlines Flight 243 to suggest and illustrate a new perspective on the sociology of technological accidents. Drawing on core insightsExpand
When failure is an option: redundancy, reliability and regulation in complex technical systems
This paper argues that redundancy in engineering, should be understood as a 'design paradigm' that frames regulatory assessments and interpretations of all complex technical systems, profoundlyExpand
When the Chick Hits the Fan
The debate that surrounds ‘birdstrike tests’ is explored to illustrate the now-familiar idea that technological tests unavoidably contain irreducible ambiguities that require judgments to bridge, and to show that these judgments can have real consequences. Expand
Risk-based policymaking is a form of reflexive policymaking that uses risk analysis to address both the primary objects of policy interventions and their secondary adverse consequences. As such, itExpand
Disowning Fukushima: Managing the credibility of nuclear reliability assessment in the wake of disaster
This paper reflects on the credibility of nuclear risk assessment in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima meltdowns. In democratic states, policymaking around nuclear energy has long been premised on anExpand
On audits and airplanes: Redundancy and reliability-assessment in high technologies
This paper argues that reliability assessments of complex technologies can usefully be construed as ‘audits’ and understood in relation to the literature on audit-practices. It looks at a specificExpand
Watching the Watchmaker:: On Regulating the Social in Lieu of the Technical
This paper looks at the problem of expertise in regulation by examining the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) 'type-certification' process, through which they evaluate new designs of civilExpand
Anatomy of failure
But the different standards meant making a true assessment of whether anatomy knowledge levels are adequate was difficult and suggested clearer guidelines were needed. Over the last few years,Expand
Supersense: Perception in the Animal World