Socio-Technical Analysis of a Sportive Innovation: The Case of Kitesurfing

By Eric Boutroy, Bastien Soulé, Bénédicte Vignal

Within the sporting goods industry, innovation, largely leveraged by producers to differentiate and stimulate demand, has mainly been studied from the management sciences perspective. This paper, inspired by the new sociology of sciences and techniques, will apply a socio-technical analysis to a singular case of sportive innovation: kitesurfing. Retracing the uncertain origins of this sports object, as well as its spaces, uses, users, and mediators, we describe the successive delays in a long exploration phase, as well as the unpredictability of an attraction phase rendered possible by the progressive involvement of inventors. It is above all a question of showing that the explication of the success or failure of an innovation requires a double description: diachronic of trajectory; synchronic of deployment and reconfiguration of a network that transforms it and makes it more real in line with the enrolment of new actors. This approach thus allows for the completion of certain re-readings with a focus on abstract phases (conception, test…) or providential figures (inventor, user, pioneer), and to take into account the ensemble of heterogeneous and interdependent elements (human actors, material entities) associated with each stage. Kitesurfing does not simply cross a context of progressive refinement: it arises as the fruit of successive translations and new associations that transform it.


  • innovation
  • kiteboarding
  • network
  • process
  • sociotechnical analysis
  • sport
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