The article analyzes the relation between transformations in information systems and changing forms of organization. Drawing on a historical case study, it examines the rise of actuarial theory in Germany and Switzerland around 1900 and its significance for the emergence of the first modern social insurances. So far, the history of actuarial theory has been written as the social history of the actuarial profession or the epistemic history of probability calculus. By examining the political and economic contexts of the history of actuarial theory, the article also discusses the notion of an “insurance society”. The argument concludes that Foucauldian interpretations of actuarial theory as a technology of power and a condition of modern governmentality are too monistic and should be specified. The article suggests to use the concept of a “technology of trust” to interpret the integrative power of actuarial theory in a political field marked by deep antagonisms.
This study examines absorptive capacity’s role in IT implementation success. Absorptive capacity is the organization’s ability to recognize the value of new information, assimilate it, and apply it to commercial ends [Cohen, W. M., & Levinthal, D. A. (1990). Absorptive capacity: A new perspective on learning and innovation. Administrative Science Quarterly, 35(March), 128–152]. Based on previous research, this study proposes a measure of absorptive capacity that includes managerial IT knowledge and communication channels and tests its relationship to the application of new technology in the form of expert systems implementation.Related to claims about the importance of absorptive capacity are claims that a “learning culture” or “knowledge-friendly culture” is necessary in order for knowledge to be gained and effectively used within the organization. This study examines the type of corporate culture that influences absorptive capacity. The results provide support for absorptive capacity’s proposed dimensions and its antecedent of corporate culture that act to influence the implementation of new technologies.
Higher education is a sector entering an era of IT-enabled modernization in which it may have to cope with an influx of unfamiliar corporate concepts and practices. This paper analyzes one of the first Enterprise Resource Planning implementation projects within the academic administration of an Ivy League university. We contribute to existing qualitative literature in information systems by developing the theme of temporality within actor–network theory to support our analysis. This enables us to extend process-oriented ERP research by focusing on the identification of temporal zones and creation of durable work times designed to re-order priorities between competing visions for the future of higher education. We analyze detailed negotiations during periods of controversy to reveal how standard work practices come to be created and recreated. We consider how the ERP that emerges is affected by progressive trials of strength during the project and analyze the achievement of order as an on-going process. Our findings highlight the distinctive contribution that a ‘temporal turn’ can bring to longitudinal research studies by providing insight into the technical agency of ERP packages and how its temporal inscriptions shaped the emergence of a socio-technical information system. This reordered organizational work life and created a hybrid temporality that still needs to be negotiated into the working rhythms of the University’s actors.
Recent work on Information Systems tries to reconcile the apparent homogeneity of Information Technologies (IT) with the heterogeneity of their use by recognising that users can render IT systems flexible and malleable. This paper advances theorisation of this apparent paradox by reflecting on the nature of IT, i.e. its ontology. Observations of an ERP (SAP) implementation in a large USA multi-national cast within Actor-Network Theory and Science and Technology Studies approaches help illustrate how an object like IT can possess diversity and heterogeneity whilst being a homogeneous and operative technology. The paper argues that IT appears homogeneous for it attracts and generates heterogeneous uses. This paradox is labelled ‘heteromogeneous’. An IT system is theorised as an absence which establishes a presence by mobilising and attracting other actors and technologies, in this instance accounting, seeking visibility in organisations. IT emerges from multiple and continuous translations involving customisations of SAP. Thus the definition of IT is neither stable nor singular across time and space, which enables IT and SAP to travel across organisations.
The disembodying and disembedding of work through systems of abstraction (such as management accounting systems) were fundamental to the establishment of regimes of management that act, not directly and immediately on others, but instead acts upon their actions—i.e. the establishment of management as a regime of governmentality. Time–space distanciation, through abstraction (such as numbers) and electronic mediation, has radically transformed the way organisational actors interrelate and make sense of their everyday organisational lives. This paper argues and shows that phenomenology, in particular the work of Michel Henry, can help us understand how actors live their lives in and through the simultaneity of systems of abstraction and their affective, embodied and situated living praxis. The paper presents a case study of how different organisational actors (managers and controllers) make sense of, and live with, the numbers in a management accounting system—numbers that affect them quite profoundly. The analysis of the case shows that all interpretation, sense-making and argumentation of, and with the numbers are rendered possible through re-embodiment. Such a re-embodiment, in turn, require as necessary a prior reference to their subjective affective life—their own living praxis. If this is the case, as we hope our research shows, then subjective affective life should not be subjugated by the formal rational discourse of management but should rather be seen for what it is—the very source of meaning that is the condition of possibility for abstraction and mediation to be possible at all. The paper concludes with some implications of Henry’s phenomenology of life for organisations and management research.
Using the example of a failed software implementation, we discuss the role of artifacts in shaping organizational routines. We argue that artifact-centered assumptions about design are not well suited to designing organizational routines, which are generative systems that produce recognizable, repetitive patterns of interdependent actions, carried out by multiple actors. Artifact-centered assumptions about design not only reinforce a widespread misunderstanding of routines as things, they implicitly embody a rather strong form of technological determinism. As an alternative perspective, we discuss the use of narrative networks as a way to conceptualize the role of human and non-human actants, and to represent the variable patterns of action that are characteristic of “live” routines. Using this perspective, we conclude with some suggestions on how to design organizational routines that are more consistent with their nature as generative systems.
Ubiquitous computing envisions seamless access of mass-scale services over the multitude of contexts that users encounter in their everyday mobility. However, to be successful such computing must simultaneously be designed to provide transparent, integrated, and convenient support in localized use contexts. Thus, the issue of multi-contextuality makes the design of ubiquitous computing services and environments a challenging endeavor. While ubiquitous computing requires attention to the multi-contextuality of people’s mobile device use encompassing spatial, temporal, and social dimensions of mobility, the typical avenue for IS research studies has been the single context (e.g., team, organization, or inter-organizational).This paper reports on a grounded action research study with the objective of developing and testing design principles for handling multi-contextuality in an increasingly important ubiquitous computing environment – the car. Already supporting people’s everyday mobility and promising to provide ubiquitous availability of computing and communication infrastructure, the car is indeed a relevant setting for investigating the co-existence of different use contexts in ubiquitous computing. Contributing to the early stage of the ubiquitous computing research tradition, this paper not only empirically demonstrates that the car as a ubiquitous computing environment can improve the convenience of people’s everyday mobile device use by providing multi-contextual support. The paper also suggests our design principles and their associated socio-technical implications to be valid for other ubiquitous computing environments. Indeed, synchronizing fluid use patterns, scaling service manipulation, and signaling context-switches through awareness support lie at the heart of weaving ubiquitous computing environments conveniently into the fabric of people’s everyday mobility.
The implementation of new information technology (IT) often aims at transforming work practices. The information systems (IS) literature has detailed numerous cases of reproduction or changes of practice associated with IT use. The literature has also drawn from the practice and structurationist perspectives to suggest that changes in practice are related to changes in organizations. The micro-level issue of how practices change with IT use, however, has so far remained under-explored. This paper investigates this issue and analyzes what makes agents transform how they work with IT and how these transformations may be shared among members of the same work group. The conceptual lens proposed in this paper builds on the emerging literature in IS on the relationships between action and cognition, and introduces the notion of social representations to the IS field in order to clarify these relationships. The adopted conceptual lens helps us to examine a longitudinal case study of the implementation and use of an intranet system in an occupational network. The analysis suggests that practices are reproduced with IT use when agents experience a sustained consonance between actions, practices and representations. Conversely, when agents undergo dissonance between actions, practices and representations, they gradually adapt their practices and representations to reestablish consonance.
In this paper we problematize the metaphor of balance employed in the area of information privacy. Using Actor-Network Theory we conduct an historical investigation into the continuous release of the same personal data over the course of eight decades. Through the examination of actual enactments of balance over time we find that, in practice, balancing acts are conducted at local levels by local actor-networks within organizations, with limited overall organizational knowledge, raising challenges around interpreting statements made by organizational spokespersons. We also find a surprising lack of knowledge possessed by these local actor-networks about what is subsequently done with personal data and the extent to which networks that extend beyond the organization gravitate towards and form around available data. Through tracing and revealing this historical Actor-Network Theory investigation provides a means of probing and examining actual acts of balance in the area of information privacy and, through revelation, aid in the creation of the possibility of bringing the act of balance more in line with the concept.
Various modern approaches to Information Systems Security (ISS) development, influenced, e.g., by information systems (IS) development methods, have been presented. While we see these approaches as serious attempts to improve ISS, they have not received much attention in the literature. One reason for this is that these methods have been developed by scholars from different research traditions and disciplines. This article first identifies the disciplines and research communities which underlie the modern ISS approaches. Second, the article reveals the assumptions behind these modern approaches. Finally, the article places these ISS approaches in a five-generational classification. It is argued that the extant ISS methods reside on the first four generations, and future ISS methods should move towards the fifth generation, social and adaptable (empirically grounded) ISS methods.
Current debate on organization change is concerned increasingly with questioning the extent to which different organizational designs are effective. Consequently, many new forms of organizing have been proffered. In particular, new-form theorists acknowledge hierarchy but rarely test it in generating a variety of information technology- (IT) related change outcomes. This paper focuses on the robustness of hierarchy by tracing its characteristics within two public organizations. It provides an understanding of the relationship between IT applications and structural change by examining how the process of IT adaptation unfolds. Specifically, it explores how management’s disposition to IT change discerns the nature of an organization’s structure and the adaptation of that structure. I argue that the nature of management’s application of information systems—and non-management’s reaction to this practice—guides structural modification. Discussion focuses on explaining the continued presence of hierarchy in IT environments where there is an expectation for significant structural change.
In this paper, we draw on theory from social worlds to analyze how different organizational contexts affect groupware adoption. We report on a study of the adoption of data conferencing in a large distributed organization. Our data show that the diffusion process, which was driven by the users, was a result of communication and transformation of the technology across different social worlds. We also discovered that membership in multiple social worlds in an organization creates a tension for the potential adopter who is in a distributed team. To function effectively, team members must uniformly adopt the technology, yet some may face resistance from other social worlds to which they belong. Our study showed that adoption was affected by organizational sites having conflicting views of the value of collaboration, different amounts and needs for resources, and different acceptance of technology standards. Potential technology adopters on distributed teams are faced with conflicting loyalties, constraints, and requirements between their distributed collaborations and organizational homes.
Most IS research in both the technical/rational and socio-technical traditions ignores or marginalizes the emotionally charged behaviours through which individuals engage in, and cope with the consequences of, IS practice and associated organizational change. Even within the small body of work that engages with emotions through particular conceptual efforts, affections are often conceived as a phenomenon to be eradicated – an affliction requiring a cure. In this paper, I argue that emotions are always implicated in our lived experiences, crucially influencing how we come to our beliefs about what is good or bad, right or wrong. I draw from the theoretical work of Michel Foucault to argue for elaborating current notions of IS innovation as a moral and political struggle in which individuals’ beliefs and feelings are constantly tested. Finally, I demonstrate these ideas by reference to a case study that had considerable emotional impact, and highlight the implications for future work.
A recently conducted piece of micro-level, interpretive IS action research has enabled the delivery of direct user benefits through the adoption of a methodological approach which focuses specifically on the interpretive generation of meaning by authorial individuals. Drawing on recent debates concerning knowledge and identity within social anthropology, IS and social psychology, this approach derives from a theoretical position which acknowledges social constraints on individual behaviour whilst according primacy to individuals’ biographically determined interpretive work. Use of this approach in the field revealed layers of interpretive interaction between users and technology which had hitherto remained invisible and problematic, and allowed several simple practical interventions which strengthened the ability of users to generate their own meanings at critical junctures in the system. It is suggested that such sensitive, low-level ‘fine tuning’ represents a new way forward for those seeking a practical, focused alternative to the more commonplace, high-level research approach within current interpretive IS literature.
The problems of nomadic computing users have been described as challenges presented by the interplay of time, space and context. However, theoretical accounts to date have not addressed all three aspects of nomadic computing in a single effort. We investigated how the practices of individual nomadic computing users in a large mortgage finance company changed after implementation of a nomadic computing environment. Although users experienced contradictory outcomes as they sought resolutions to the dilemmas posed by work and nonwork demands, all users reported effectiveness in their computing practices. We attribute their effectiveness to skilled use of technologies to control the boundaries between their personal and business social contexts. The variety of patterns of boundary control across nomadic workers in the study is explained using a theory of human agency that focuses on the temporal, spatial and contextual conditions facing actors as they engage with their nomadic computing environments.
Mobilities, encompassing the movements and ‘flows’ of people, objects, capital, images technologies and information across the world have been strongly implicated in the context of contemporary globalization processes. Globally distributed software development work across boundaries of time, space and place undertaken by global software organizations (GSOs), can be seen as a microcosm of such processes, reflecting a multiplicity of mobilities, while situated in a particular context. An in-depth interpretative case study of a GSO located in Mumbai, India, was used in order to understand the nature and kinds of mobilities and their interactions with place, space, selves, and identities of Information Technology (IT) workers within the firm. Three kinds of interrelated mobilities – geographical, social and existential – were identified through an interpretive analysis of the empirical material. The construct of mobility–identity is proposed for analyzing the dynamic interplay between mobilities, place, selves, and identities of the workers. An understanding of mobility–identity is seen to have both theoretical and practical implications, and contributes more broadly to the development of our understanding of a “sociology of mobilities”.
Neo-institutional economics is credited with acknowledging the role of a “positive information cost” in the formation of economic organizations. However, neo-institutional theory does not explicitly address the problems presented by the loss of information that occurs when organizations change from a face-to-face to electronic channels. An anthropological perspective, in contrast, allows us to explain why this occurs and how organizations can address the dislocations it causes.We argue that Frank Knight’s concept of “uncertainty reduction,” still prominent in current neo-institutional thinking, is insufficient for understanding changes in the firm interface, constitution, and cultural roles resulting from shifts in the cost and nature of information processing. As an extension, we explore paradigms from anthropology, suggesting that changes in the material and social mix of communication are critical in explaining the psychological, cultural and institutional roles that many organizations play, and discuss how these roles are transformed in electronic channels.A five-level framework of information mediation is developed through a case study of an insurance company that has undertaken a dramatic re-engineering of its primary value-adding processes. The framework extends the traditional neo-institutional focus on internal resource allocation towards societal demand and fulfillment of institutional needs. While the new IT/telecom-based processes have substantially improved its cost profile and shifted organizational boundaries, they have also transformed the medium of interaction between the insurer and its customers. As such, the company soon learned that mediating and processing its products through telecom-based channels fundamentally changed the characteristics of its product offering as well as its basis as a social institution.
The mobility of human activities entails intrinsic parameters such as the mobility of tasks and technologies, as well as changing conditions underlying mobile computing. The interactions between these parameters bear directly on the appropriation of mobile technologies deployed in these activities. In this paper, I analyze the appropriation of mobile technologies as a function of motives, conditions of use, and technology design properties. The analysis explains the flexibility of mobile computing as a direct function of the appropriation process. The paper contributes to understanding mobile technology use and improving user acceptance by extending existing conceptualizations of technology use. Technology personalization and use in non-organizational contexts are the essentials of the extension, suggesting that mobile computing is a function of use for serving both organizationally-sanctioned and personal motives. Implications for researching mobile technology use and for designing mobile technologies are drawn.
In this paper, I explore how presence is articulated in a virtual team environment. The empirical data in this paper are taken from a series of emails that were exchanged for the duration of a virtual team project. The paper argues that even though presence was identified as integral in conceptualising virtual teams, it has not previously been well articulated. Using the discourse analysis approach, the study succeeds in identifying three different articulations of presence in virtual organizing: present availability, absent unavailability and silenced availability. The paper concludes with the argument that these discursive articulations of presence are central to understanding virtual organizing and the theoretical and practical implications of this are discussed.
The design and creation of anything innovative requires knowledge creation, which in turn often depends upon the introduction of innovative information technology (IT). Since design-related practices are deeply integrated with particular IT artifacts, it is no trivial task to migrate practice-based knowledge to unfamiliar IT artifacts. To explore the challenges associated with such migration, we develop the concept of embeddedness of IT artifacts by drawing on research that highlights the critical role of representational artifacts in knowledge, design, and distributed cognition. We then inductively analyze interview data from an in-depth case study of Frank Gehry, a world-renowned and radically innovative architect known for his use of sophisticated 3D computer-aided design (CAD) technology. By studying construction firms' transition from 2D CAD to 3D CAD, we identify four relevant themes associated with embedding new artifacts into knowledge-creating practice: (1) motivating the new artifact; (2) anchoring the new artifact in the old; (3) experimenting with the new artifact; and (4) confidence in using the new artifact. Through the generation of a process theory of embedding, we elaborate on how this perspective complements and extends research on IT adaptation and assimilation, and discuss the relevance of continuing to develop the IT embeddedness perspective given the continuing need for increased levels of IT-enabled innovation.
Engineers such as systems developers get most of their information from colleagues and internal reports. In the literature on engineers' information-seeking practices the generally agreed-upon explanation of this preference for close-by, internal information sources is that engineers follow a principle of least effort by choosing their information sources on the basis of ease of access rather than quality of contents. This study argues that engineers' preference for internal sources such as their colleagues is just as much a preference for sources with a known or easily determinable trustworthiness as it is a preference for information that is easily accessible. Trust is of central importance because quality is a perceived property and, thus, assessing the quality of an information source is essentially a matter of establishing to what extent one is willing to place trust in it. This can be done with greater ease and precision for familiar sources. A field study of the meetings in a software design project shows that in discussing and selecting information sources the software engineers devote significantly more attention to quality-related factors than to cost-related factors. It is also normal conversational practice at the meetings to accompany the mentioning of information sources that may be unknown to some project participants by information that puts them in context. Systems for managing knowledge and sharing expertise must recognise these rich means of forming a perception of the credibility of individual pieces of information.
In the last twenty years or so the UK National Health Service (NHS) has witnessed tremendous changes in the provision of mental health services. As the vast Victorian asylums have progressively been run down and closed attention has switched to the planning and delivery of services based on the idea of ‘care in the community’. This paper explores some of the temporal and spatial dimensions of the problems of organizing that have marked this transition. Drawing on research conducted within a hospital department responsible for psychiatric services in the community, it addresses some of the issues faced by mental health professionals in struggling to put in place and maintain mental health services while simultaneously under pressure to demonstrate their professional accountability. In this regard, particular attention is paid to the role of technology (principally information and the information systems) in managing services in the context of the transition to care in the community as well as addressing some of the problems generated by it.
Most research on Internet auction fraud focuses exclusively on the relationship between the con-artist and victim. However, the con-artist and victim are situated in an ecology comprising the auction house, police, and auction community. This paper employs the ‘parasite’ metaphor as a way of building theory about Internet auction fraud. We begin by describing the parasite metaphor. We then introduce three theories from the parasitism literature and demonstrate the insights these theories can produce. The first theory, the competitive exclusion principle, highlights how separate auction markets evolve their own species or types of fraud. It also warns us that fraud elimination may be neither desirable nor feasible relative to constraining fraud to acceptable levels. The second theory details various parasite infection mechanisms to show that on-line fraud is composed of two processes; the actual deception and escape. Finally, virulence theory provides one way to predict how much harm a particular kind of fraud will cause to an individual victim. Virulence theory is also used to suggest that the auction infrastructure encourages low virulence vis-à-vis other kinds of fraud like Nigerian letter fraud.
Why do some information technology innovations come to be adopted widely while others do not? One promising research stream has begun to investigate how institutional factors shape the diffusion of IT innovations. Here we examine how these institutional factors themselves are shaped. Specifically, we explore how interested actors termed institutional entrepreneurs develop institutional arrangements to launch an IT innovation toward widespread adoption. Undertaking a contemporary case study of a new class of enterprise software, professional services automation (PSA), we found that to launch PSA, institutional entrepreneurs sought to mobilize an organizational community by developing and recognizing leaders and facilitating members’ focus on PSA. They further struggled to legitimate PSA by developing a coherent organizing vision that incorporated compelling success stories. We tie these findings together in a model that usefully shifts the focus of IT innovation research from assessing institutional effects to understanding institution-building. This new focus suggests an alternative IT diffusion theory with several practical implications.
To support collaborative interactions, information systems need to support awareness: Collaborators must attain and maintain reciprocal awareness of shared activity in order to coordinate effectively. Supporting awareness has often been conceptualized a matter of ameliorating deficits inherent in remote interaction. In this paper, we consider awareness support in several community informatics contexts from the standpoint of better-leveraging affordances unique to remote community-oriented interactions. We suggest positive design strategies to design awareness support “beyond” what is typical in traditional face-to-face interchange.