Journal of the Knowledge Economy

, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp 372–388 | Cite as

Innovation Theory, Aesthetics, and Science of the Artificial After Herbert Simon

  • Helge GodoeEmail author


In innovation, the role of aesthetics is important, possibly paramount, but this factor is not reflected in mainstream innovation theory and research. The paper suggests that aesthetics, supported by serendipity, imagination, and creativity constitute the core, i.e., the “soul” of innovation, and that these factors fuel the dynamics of innovation. These factors are set within a framework, a type of conceptual “iron triangle” or trinity of innovation consisting of: diffusion, entrepreneurship, and novelty. Within this, the novelty, this “something” new becomes an innovation because of diffusion, but the diffusion of the innovation is critically dependent on actors with an agency of promoting innovation, i.e., diffusion is pushed by entrepreneurship. Aesthetics fuels this dynamic together with factors related to serendipity, imagination, and creativity. The challenge of incorporating aesthetics and its associates in innovation theory may become feasible by adoption and further development of Herbert Simon's theory of the science of the artificial. The article suggests how this could be done; basically by redefining Simon's notion of the role of the “utility function” in optimization as one that is ruled by aesthetics.


Aesthetics Innovation Innovation theory Science of the artificial Herbert Simon 


  1. 1.
    Andel PV (1994) Anatomy of the unsought finding. Serendipity: origins, history, domains, traditions, appearances, patterns and programmability. Br J Philos Sci 45:631–648CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Bale K (2009) Estetikk: en innføring. Pax, OsloGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Basalla G (1988) The evolution of technology. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Branan N (2010) Neandertal Symbolism: Evidence Suggests a Biological Basis for Symbolic Thought. Scientific American(April)Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Denning, DE (1990) Concerning hackers who break into computer systems. Paper presented at the 13th National Computer Security Conference, 1–4 Oct. 1990, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Dosi G (1988) Sources, procedures and microeconomic effects of innovation. J Econ Lit xxvi:1120–1171Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Dutton D (2002) Aesthetic Universals. 2010, from
  8. 8.
    Ferguson ES (1993) Engineering and the mind's eye. The MIT Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Florida R (2005) The flight of the creative class. HarperCollins, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Freeman C (1995) The “National System of Innovation” in historical perspective. Camb J Econ 19(1):5–24Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Gibbons M (1994) Transfer sciences: management of distributed knowledge production. Empirica 21:259–270CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Gibbons M, Limoges C, Nowotny H, Scott P, Trow M (1994) The new production of knowledge: the dynamics of science and research in contemporary societies. Sage, LondonGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Godø H (2002) Rethinking computer hacking. VEST - J Sci Technol Stud 15(2–3):53–79Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Godø H (2008) Technological evolution, innovation and human agency. In: Carayannis E, Kaloudis A, Mariussen Å (eds) Diversity and heterogeneity in knowledge systems. Edward Elgar, Cheltenham, pp 18–34Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Godoe H (2000) Innovation regimes, R&D and radical innovations in telecommunications. Res Policy 29:1003–1046CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Håpnes T (1996) “Not in their machines: How hackers transform computers into subcultural artefacts.” In M. Lie & K. H. Sørensen (Eds.), Making technology our own? - Domesticating technology into everyday life. Oslo: Scandinavian University PressGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Himanen P (2001) The hacker ethic and the spirit of the information age. Random House, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Hippel EV (1988) The sources of innovation. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Jordan T, Taylor P (1998) A sociology of hackers. Sociol Rev 46(4):757–780Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Kawakami K (1995) 101 unuseless Japanese inventions: the art of Chindogu. HarperCollins Publishers, LondonGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Latour B (1992) Where are the missing masses: the sociology of a few mundane artifacts. In: Bijker W, Law J (eds) Shaping technology/building society—studies in sociotechnical change. The MIT Press, Cambridge, pp 225–258Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Levy S (1984) Hackers—heros of the computer revolution, 1993rd edn. Dell Publishing, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Lundvall B-Å (1993) User-producer relationships, national systems of innovation and internationalization. In: Foray D, Freeman C (eds) Technology and the wealth of the nations—the dynamics of constructed advantage. Pinter Publishers, London, pp 349–369Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Merton RK (1968) Social theory and social structure. The Free Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Merton RK, Barber E (2004 (1954)) The travels and adventures of serendipity. Princeton: Princeton University PressGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Mokyr J (1990) The lever of riches—technological creativity and economic progress. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Needham J (1964) Science and China's influence on the world. In: Dawson R (ed) The legacy of China. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 234–308Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Nelson RR, Winter SG (1982) An evolutionary theory of economic change. The Belkap Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Raymond ES (1999) A brief history of hackerdom. In: Chris DiBona SOMS (ed) Open sources—voices for the open source revolution. O'Reilly & Associates, Inc, Sebastopol, pp 19–46Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Roberts RM (1989) Serendipity—accidental discoveries in science. John Wiley & Sons, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Rogers EM (1995) Diffusion of innovations, 4th edn. Free Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Schumpeter J (1934 (1974)) The theory of economic development. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Schumpeter J (1994) Capitalism, socialism and democracy. Routledge, LondonGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Simon H (1957) Models of man: social and rational: mathematical essays on rational human behavior in a social setting. Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Simon H (1969) The sciences of the artificial. The MIT Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Simon H (1992) The science of design: creating the artificial. In: Diani M (ed) The immaterial society—design, culture, and technology in the postmodern world. Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, pp 83–101Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.NIFU—Nordic Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research and EducationOsloNorway
  2. 2.UNIK—University Graduate Center/University of OsloKjellerNorway

Personalised recommendations