Article

Sensemaking and Sustainable Practicing: Functional Affordances of Information Systems in Green Transformations

Abstract and Figures

This paper explores how a world-wide operating software solutions provider implemented environmentally sustainable business practices in response to emerging environmental concerns. Through an interpretive case study, we develop a theoretical framework that identifies four important functional affordances originating in information systems, which are required in environmental sustainability transformations as they create an actionable context in which (1) organizations can engage in a sensemaking process related to understanding emerging environmental requirements, and (2) individuals can implement environmentally sustainable work practices. Through our work, we provide several contributions, including a better understanding of IS-enabled organizational change and the types of functional affordances of information systems that are required in sustainability transformations. We describe implications relating to (1) how information systems can contribute to the creation of environmentally sustainable organizations, (2) the design of information systems to create required functional affordances, (3) the management of sustainability transformations, and (4) he further development of the concept of functional affordances in IS research.
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lication in the following source:
Seidel, Stefan, Recker, Jan C., & vom Brocke, Jan
(2013)
Sensemaking and sustainable practicing: Functional affordances of infor-
mation systems in green transformations.
Management Information Systems Quarterly,37 (4), pp. 1275-1299.
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1
Sensemaking and Sustainable Practicing:
Functional Affordances of Information Systems in Green
Transformations
AUTHORS
Stefan Seidel, Jan Recker (corresponding author), Jan vom Brocke
CONTACT DETAILS
Stefan Seidel
Institute of Information Systems
Fürst-Franz-Josef-Strasse, 9490 Vaduz, Liechtenstein
Tel +423 265 13 03
Email stefan.seidel@uni.li
Jan Recker
Information Systems School
Queensland University of Technology
126 Margaret Street, Brisbane QLD 4000, Australia
Tel +61 7 3138 9479
Tel +61 7 3138 9390
Email j.recker@qut.edu.au
Jan vom Brocke
Institute of Information Systems
Fürst-Franz-Josef-Strasse, 9490 Vaduz, Liechtenstein
Tel +423 265 13 00
Email jan.vom.brocke@uni.li
2
Abstract
This paper explores how a world-wide operating software solutions provider implemented
environmentally sustainable business practices in response to emerging environmental con-
cerns. Through an interpretive case study, we develop a theoretical framework that identifies
four important functional affordances originating in information systems, which are required
in environmental sustainability transformations as they create an actionable context in which
(a) organizations can engage in a sensemaking process related to understanding emerging
environmental requirements, and (b) individuals can implement environmentally sustainable
work practices. Through our work, we provide several contributions, including a better un-
derstanding of IS-enabled organizational change and the types of functional affordances of
information systems that are required in sustainability transformations. We describe implica-
tions relating to (1) how information systems can contribute to creating environmentally sus-
tainable organizations, (2) the design of information systems to create required functional
affordances, (3) the management of sustainability transformations, and (4) the further devel-
opment of the concept of functional affordances in IS research.
Keywords
Green IS, environmental sustainability, business transformation, case study, socio-technical
systems theory, functional affordances, sensemaking, sustainable practicing
3
Sensemaking and Sustainable Practicing:
Functional Affordances of Information Systems in Green
Transformations
Business as usual is dead—green growth is the
answer to both our climate and economic problems.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Former Prime Minister of Denmark
Introduction
The deterioration of the natural environment is a preeminent issue for our society (World
Commission on Environment and Development 1987), and business organizations are a main
contributor to this challenge (Melville 2010). In responding to increased social, cultural, and
also legislative pressures that expand the responsibility of firms to increase attention to envi-
ronmental concerns (Mintzberg et al. 2002), chief executives have increasingly—in some
countries reportedly up to 60 % (Gadatsch 2011)—committed to “Green IT” initiatives and
similar sustainability transformation efforts (Elliot 2011). These initiatives build on infor-
mation systems as a key resource to assist organizations in transforming to more sustainable
entities (Thibodeau 2007), notably because information systems have been argued to be the
greatest force for productivity improvement in the last half century (Watson et al. 2010).
Notwithstanding their evident relevance, it remains unclear how exactly information systems
can contribute to the sustainability transformation of organizations. Much of the literature has
explored specific types of systems and issues related to these systems, including, for example,
the role of virtual collaboration systems for green initiatives (Bose and Luo 2011), infor-
mation systems for managing environmental compliance issues (Butler 2011), or the envi-
ronmentally conscious design of information systems (Zhang et al. 2011), without examining
4
in detail how information systems can lead to the establishment of environmentally sustaina-
ble work practices in an organization.
In this paper, we aim to identify the functional affordances information systems can provide
to assist organizations in establishing environmentally sustainable work practices. Functional
affordances are potential uses originating in material properties of information systems that
identify what individuals might be able to use the system for, given the user’s capabilities and
goals (Markus and Silver 2008). Identifying functional affordances of information systems
that relate to the goal of establishing environmentally sustainable work practices thus assists
in understanding how green information systems (Dedrick 2010; Melville 2010; Watson et al.
2010) can be designed that aid tackling sustainability challenges such as energy consumption,
waste reduction, resource utilization, or emission management. This knowledge is also im-
portant for organizations that need an understanding of how to leverage existing and new in-
formation systems in an attempt to better their own environmental footprint. The core guiding
research question of our paper is:
How do information systems contribute to the implementation of sustainable work
practices?
Therefore, the objectives of this paper are (a) to provide an empirical description of the pro-
cess of developing sustainable work practices on the basis of information systems, and (b) to
integrate the empirical findings into a theoretical model grounded in the case data. To achieve
these objectives, we conducted a revelatory qualitative case study (Dubé and Paré 2003) with
a global software solutions provider that has successfully undergone a sustainability transfor-
mation. Based on this case, we develop a theoretical framework that conceptualizes and inte-
grates four key functional affordances that are relevant to implementing environmentally sus-
tainable work practices, namely reflective disclosure, information democratization, output
management, and delocalization.
5
Three central contributions are provided. First, we present an empirically developed under-
standing of the factors pertinent to the implementation of sustainable work practices in an
organization, specifically those that relate to functional affordances created through infor-
mation systems. In the process, we contribute substantively to an understanding of functional
affordances created by information systems and how these affordances allow organizations to
identify and implement environmentally more sustainable work practices. Second, the paper
provides an empirically grounded basis for further theorizing around the transformative power
of information systems in creating an environmentally sustainable society. Our argument is
that information systems can provide action possibilities that are characterized as environ-
mentally sensible practices. Acting upon these possibilities allows organizations and individ-
uals alike to lower environmental costs and to promote environmentally conscious ways of
working. Third, our work generates design advice about the material properties of information
systems that are required to provide functional affordances allowing environmentally sustain-
able work practices.
Through this research we will show that the primary role of information systems in sustaina-
bility transformation is to create action possibilities for sensemaking and sustainable practic-
ing. The creation of these affordances is a key transformative power that information systems
provide to organizations in becoming environmentally sustainable.
We proceed as follows. The next section presents a discussion of relevant literature analyzed
according to the characteristics of organizational sustainability transformations and the role of
information systems within such transformations, and describes the role of socio-technical
systems theory and functional affordances as two theoretical lenses relevant to building an
understanding of the role of information systems in sustainability transformations. The sec-
tion that follows details our research method. The next section presents the case interpretation
and findings, and the following section describes the theoretical framework emerging from
6
our analysis. We illustrate our framework by examining two vignettes from the case organiza-
tion. We then discuss the study’s emerging implications in terms of extensions to the litera-
ture on the role of information systems in creating environmentally sustainable organizations,
the consequences for the design of green information systems and the management of sustain-
ability transformations, and the further development of the concept of functional affordances
in IS research. We conclude by discussing limitations and reviewing the contributions of this
study.
Theoretical Background
Sustainability Transformations and the Role of Information Systems
Knowledge about the use of information systems in sustainability transformations is largely
absent in the literature (Elliot 2011; Melville 2010; Watson et al. 2010), which suggests em-
pirical research as a suitable strategy to develop insights. To scope this investigation, we view
sustainability transformation initiatives as a special case of large-scale IS-enabled change
projects and reviewed the literature on sustainability themes in organizational change, IS-
enabled organizational change, and emerging work on green information systems and green
information technology. Appendix A provides details about the findings from the literature
analysis. Table 1 summarizes six identified key properties of sustainability transformations,
and describes the related open questions that require empirical study.
The arguments provided in Table 1 suggest that information systems have the potential to
contribute positively to environmental transformations of organizations; yet, they also are a
contributor to the environmental challenge in themselves. In turn, the question is how and
when the use of information systems can be justified as a key resource that provides benefits
over and above its costs.
7
Table 1: Key properties of organizational sustainability transformations
No Property Literature Implications for information systems Key guiding research questions
1) Triggered by regulative, nor-
mative, and cultural-cognitive
pressures.
Butler (2011), Egri and
Herman (2000), Melville
(2010), Mincer (2007),
Rao and Holt (2005),
Ryan (2008), Lyon and
Maxwell (2007)
Support required for organizational sensemaking of
relevant information internal and external to the or-
ganization.
Which pressures apply to organiza-
tions?
How do organizations make sense of
the pressures and drivers?
2) Multilayered and complex,
relating to environmental,
societal, governmental, organ-
izational, regulatory, and indi-
vidual factors.
Elliot (2011), Melville
(2010), Pitt et al. (2011) New and extended demand for alternative and previ-
ously unconsidered information, from both internal
and external sources.
Demand for increasingly multi-disciplinary and inter-
related information.
How is organizational sensemaking
assisted through information sys-
tems?
3) Reliant on managerial interpre-
tation, strategy, and policy
definition.
Sharma (2000), Ramus
and Steger (2000),
Bansal and Roth (2000)
Support required for knowledge dissemination, im-
plementation, and control of new policies and action
goals.
How do managerial decisions influ-
ence the use of information systems
in work practices?
4) Associated with both utilitari-
an (e.g., profit generation) and
non-utilitarian (e.g., altruism
and ecological awareness)
values, on different levels of
the organization.
Dyllick and Hockerts
(2002), Collins (2007),
De Groot and Steg
(2007)
New organizational values and individual action goals
need to be disseminated.
Information is required for managing each value dedi-
catedly as well as synchronously.
How are new values and goals in-
stilled in individuals throughout the
organization?
How does the use of information
systems change in light of new action
goals and values?
5) Demands changed and new
dedicated requirements for
information systems solutions
and their management.
Zhang (2011), Capra and
Merlo (2009), Bose and
Luo (2011)
Emerging requirements in terms of carbon emissions,
eco-compatible lifecycle management, or energy
efficiency.
How do work practices change in
light of new values and goals on the
basis of information systems?
6) Ascribes a unique duality to
information systems in that
information systems are both a
contributor and a potential
solution to environmental
degradation.
Elliot (2011), Zhang
(2011), DesAutels and
Berthon (2011),
Bengtsson (2011), Butler
(2011), Elliot (2011),
Melville (2010), Watson
et al. (2010), Dao et al.
(2011)
Information systems need to reduce their electricity
consumption, carbon emissions, and waste produc-
tion.
Information systems need to act as a change agent in
green initiatives, e.g., by enabling the management of
compliance imperatives, contributing to sustainable
work practices, enabling the development of sustaina-
ble capabilities, and helping to form beliefs about
environmental sustainability.
What are the positive and negative
consequences of information systems
to the change of work practices?
When do positive consequences
emerge?
8
We argue that an empirical investigation requires an understanding of how the properties of
information systems relate to other elements of the organizational system. This is important in
order to understand their impact on the enablement of sustainability transformations in terms
of (a) organizational sensemaking (properties 1 and 2 in Table 1), (b) sustainable work prac-
tice implementation (properties 3, 4, and 5 in Table 1), and ultimately (c) the realization of the
potential as a solution to environmental degradation (property 6 in Table 1). In the following,
we thus discuss two theoretical perspectives that provide us with lenses to (1) relate infor-
mation systems to other elements in the organizational work system in general and (2) under-
stand how information systems are re-interpreted and used by individuals in the light of
changed action goals specifically.
A Socio-technical Systems Perspective on Information Systems in Organiza-
tional Work Systems
Socio-technical systems (STS) theory (Bostrom and Heinen 1977) provides a reference
framework to identify how information systems relate to other components of an organiza-
tional system. STS theory builds upon Leavitt’s (1965) socio-technical model that views four
interacting and aligned components—task, structure, people, and technology—as the im-
portant dimensions of organizations as work systems. Information systems, as integrated and
cooperating sets of software using information technology to transmit, process, or store in-
formation (Piccoli 2008), are technology components in this model.
STS theory is appropriate as a meta framework because it is simple, extensive, sufficiently
well-defined, anchored in the extant literature, and a frequently used model in studies of IS-
enabled organizational change (e.g., Bostrom et al. 2009; Lyytinen and Newman 2008; Pitt et
al. 2011).
STS theory recognizes two subsystems within an organization. The technical subsystem com-
prises the tasks and technologies that transform inputs into outputs. The social subsystem
9
comprises the individuals and the interrelationships among individuals (people) as well as
reward systems and authority structures (structures).
In sustainability transformations, we are interested in how an entire organization as an organi-
zational work system can be transformed with regard to environmental sustainability targets.
STS theory posits that several attributes apply to such a transformation (Bostrom et al. 2009):
- The transformation occurs within an internal environment that comprises separate but
interdependent technical (technology and task) and social (structure and people) subsys-
tems.
- The organizational system needs to adapt in light of goals originating from an external
environment.
- The adaptation to the external goals relies on the joint optimization of the technical and
social subsystems, which can only be achieved if the interdependencies among these sub-
systems are explicitly considered.
We view STS theory as an appropriate meta-conceptualization to investigate what matters to
understanding an organizational sustainability transformation. STS theory specifically pro-
vides us with a set of key basic constructs needed to develop a framework capturing the rich
context of factors and interactions that pertain to the complexities of information systems as
integrated and cooperating sets of software in such transformations.
However, STS theory remains silent about how the critical structural, technological, people,
or task-based elements are interwoven in a transformation. STS theory also remains silent
about the specification of the interaction conditions, triggers, and consequences that effectuate
a transformation.
In our effort to understand how information systems contribute to a sustainability transfor-
mation, we thus need to understand how information systems are used in organizations and
what the potential consequences of these interactions are. The next subsection introduces the
10
concept of functional affordances, which provides us with a theoretical lens to examine how
information systems relate to behavioral routines manifested in work practices (Leonardi
2011) by focusing on what individuals may be able to do with information systems in their
work practices in light of their action goals and values (Markus and Silver 2008).
Functional Affordances Created Through Information Systems
Functional affordances describe the action possibilities allowed by material properties existent
in information systems (Markus and Silver 2008). The concept was originally proposed in the
field of ecological psychology by Gibson (1986). Gibson argues that animals and people ini-
tially do not perceive the physical properties of objects (e.g., a chair is horizontal, flat, ex-
tended, rigid, knee-high), but rather what objects offer or afford to them (e.g., a chair affords
sitting): “what we perceive when we look at objects are their affordances, not their qualities”
(Gibson 1986). Gibson (1986) further posits that the action possibilities offered by an object
are always relative to the observer. For instance, a chair that affords sitting to adults does not
offer the same possibilities to children, as knee-high for an adult is not the same as knee-high
for a child. Hence, researchers have defined affordances as being relations between the envi-
ronment (objects) and users such as animals or people (Chemero 2003) rather than qualities of
objects alone.
Affordances have to be perceived before they can be enacted or actualized (Chemero 2003).
Perceiving an affordance, however, does not necessarily mean that the animal or human must
actually realize the offered action possibility (Stoffregen 2003).
In the context of information systems research, Markus and Silver (2008) define affordances
as “the possibilities for goal-oriented action afforded to specified user groups by technical
objects” (p. 622). To realize these action possibilities, the functional affordances need to be
11
perceived as such, which is dependent on the relationship between system and user in the con-
text in which information systems are used (Leonardi 2011).
The concept of functional affordances allows us to examine how individuals who subscribe to
emerging action goals related to the sustainability theme (i.e., a specific user group) interpret
material properties of information systems (i.e., technical objects) with the objective of creat-
ing more sustainable work practices. This distinction is important in the context of sustaina-
bility transformations, because it allows the specification of how information systems con-
tribute to changes in organizational practices that in turn constitute the transformation.
Table 2 provides an overview of important properties of functional affordances that lead to
important questions in the case of IS-enabled sustainability transformations.
Table 2: Key properties of functional affordances
Property Source Implications for the study in this paper
Functional affordances depend on material
properties of information systems. Leonardi and
Bailey (2008),
Markus and
Silver (2008).
Which material properties need to be provided
by information systems in order to permit
functional affordances that will be required in
the sustainability transformation?
Functional affordances emerge when the
material properties of information systems
are interpreted as affording action possi-
bilities within the context of their use.
Leonardi
(2011), Markus
and Silver
(2008).
How are information system use contexts
characterized in sustainability transformations
and when and how do individuals interpret
information systems as providing functional
affordances for sustainable work practices?
Functional affordances arise when indi-
viduals interpret information systems
through their goals for action. Acting on
the perceived functional affordances leads
to new intentions about the use of the
material properties of an information sys-
tem, in turn enabling new work practices.
Leonardi
(2011), Markus
and Silver
(2008),
Zammuto et al.
(2007).
What are the interpretations of functional
affordances that lead to new, sustainable work
practices?
Functional affordances create potential but
not both necessary and sufficient condi-
tions for goal-oriented actions.
Markus and
Silver (2008). How and why are the action possibilities af-
forded by information systems in a specific
use context realized such that they effectuate
more sustainable work practices?
Research Method
Because IS-enabled sustainability transformation studies are scarce to date (Melville 2010),
our strategy was to study one case in depth and to develop a theory based on the empirical
12
data collected. Single case studies are well-accepted in the IS literature (e.g., Davidson and
Chismar 2007; Levina and Ross 2003; Majchrzak et al. 2000; Sarker et al. 2012; Silva and
Hirschheim 2007; Vlaar et al. 2008), because they allow researchers to develop a deep under-
standing of information systems in use in their socially embedded contexts (Orlikowski and
Iacono 2001) and of organizational actions related to their use (Klein and Myers 1999). Spe-
cifically, single case studies are appropriate if the case under scrutiny is critical, extreme,
unique, or revelatory (Dubé and Paré 2003). As our intent was to develop new theory, we
selected a revelatory case, that is, one that provided access to a phenomenon that was previ-
ously inaccessible to scientific investigation (e.g., Cross et al. 1997; Silva and Hirschheim
2007). In conducting our single case study, we followed established guidelines for interpre-
tive case study research (e.g., Charmaz 2006; Klein and Myers 1999; Strauss and Corbin
1998; Walsham 1995).
As an appropriate case site we sought an organization that had undergone a transformation
towards a more sustainable enterprise through the use of information systems. The chosen site
was a newly constituted company-wide sustainability program at a leading global software
solutions provider. The organization, which at the time of the study employed about 45,000
people and has its main areas of business in the fields of enterprise resource planning, busi-
ness intelligence, collaborative business, and related applications, had officially launched a
dedicated sustainability-related transformation program in early 2009. By the end of 2010, the
greenhouse gas emissions were down by 25% since 2007, the number of physical servers was
reduced by 3% year over year, server utilization was increased by 60%, and information sys-
tems power usage and paper consumption were reduced by 5% and 28% per employee, re-
spectively.
We consider the selected case site to be revelatory on at least three counts: First, the case or-
ganization was arguably successful in implementing sustainable business practices at a time
13
when few organizations had done so. For instance, it has been named as the leader of the
software sector of the Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes for five consecutive years and it is
featured in the Global 100 index for the most sustainable corporations in the world
(http://global100.org/annual-lists/2012-global-100-list.html). Second, the transformation ef-
forts span the whole organization, viz., its transformation affected internal management and
processes as well as external product and service development and delivery. Third, the case
organization relied largely on its own information systems solution development. This al-
lowed us to examine specifically how information systems can contribute to the transfor-
mation.
The two main methods for data collection were interviews and review of case documentation
about the initiative. In examining our data, we followed a three-stage process of open, axial,
and selective coding, building upon and adapting the recommendations by Strauss and Corbin
(1998). Appendix B provides details about data collection, interview demographics, coding
and analysis procedures as well as a discussion of measures taken to ensure credibility, cor-
roboration, and generalizability of our analysis and resulting findings. Appendix C provides
the interview protocol as it evolved through our study.
Interpretation and Analysis of Case
The sustainability transformation in the case organization was triggered by conditioning in-
fluences from the institutional environment and led to organizational outcomes in terms of
implemented environmentally sustainable work practices. This view is congruent with prior
literature on IS-enabled sustainability activities within a setting of institutional arrangements
(Butler 2011). At an institutional level, we found the sustainability transformation at the case
organization to be triggered by four regulative, normative, and cultural-cognitive pressures,
14
which resided outside of the control of the organization and the industries in which it oper-
ates:
(1) The case organization was faced with pressure from value chain suppliers to attend to a
triple bottom-line of accounting for financial, but also environmental and social externali-
ties.
(2) Market conditions resulted in a need for operational excellence.
(3) The case organization’s customers increasingly demanded information systems product
and service solutions that enabled better resource efficiency.
(4) The organization witnessed the emergence and proliferation of sustainability-related legis-
lation, which created regulative pressure (Scott 2000) to enact a sustainability transfor-
mation in order to comply with the regulative obligations.
In response to these external conditions, the case organization enacted a transformation pro-
cess based on the top management’s interpretations of these pressures as both an opportunity
and a demand. New structures were established, including a dedicated organizational unit
called Sustainability Operations, and a local sustainability champions network, with the pur-
pose of managing and leading the sustainability change process. Also, environmentally-
oriented key performance indicators were defined on strategic, tactical, and operational levels.
By examining the transformation process triggered through these interventions, it became
apparent that the transformation relied on the action possibilities that were afforded by infor-
mation systems in use in the organization. In analyzing our data, we identified the two main
categories of sensemaking affordances and sustainable practicing affordances that originated
in information systems and enabled more sustainable work practices to be implemented in the
case organization. Specifically, we found two categories of sensemaking affordances (reflec-
tive disclosure and information democratization) and two categories of sustainable practicing
affordances (output management and delocalization). While these functional affordances were
15
identified in the single case that we studied, we believe that they will emerge in other organi-
zational contexts that meet relevant conditions, most notably regarding the underlying materi-
al properties of information systems and the properties of the use context of a sustainability
transformation. To that end, in the following, we will detail the relevant properties of the so-
cio-technical environment in which the functional affordances emerged in a conceptual analy-
sis. In turn, our categories are not confined to the substantive context that was studied, but can
be present in any organization that embarks on a sustainability transformation. Table 3 pro-
vides an overview and definitions of these formal concepts.
Table 3: Functional affordances in the context of sustainability transformations
Category Functional
Affordance Definition
Organizational
sensemaking
affordances
Reflective dis-
closure Reflective disclosure affordances allow for a reconsideration of belief
formation, action formation, and outcome assessment related to work prac-
tices. The functional affordances, if realized, enable seeking information
about current work practice beliefs, actions, and outcomes, and enable
imagination, articulation, and assessment of alternative actions and out-
comes based on environmental sustainability considerations.
Information
democratization Information democratization affordances enable dissemination and interac-
tion about sustainability-related information from both internal and exter-
nal sources. The functional affordances enable diffusion and network cul-
tivation of information as well as opportunities to participate in and influ-
ence the decisions made as part of the initiative.
Sustainable
practicing
affordances
Output man-
agement Output management affordances enable the management of environmen-
tally harmful outputs and the associated resource consumption of work
practices. The functional affordance thus allows work practices to be con-
fined to the boundaries of certain sustainability regulations and norms
(e.g., consumption of paper or other non-renewable, harmful, or environ-
mentally undesirable resources).
Delocalization Delocalization affordances enable work practices to become location-
independent and thus reduce negative sustainability impact stemming from
resource movement to location of work (e.g., traveling).
In what follows, we will first describe the four functional affordances in the two main catego-
ries of sensemaking affordances and sustainable practicing affordances and how they were
developed based on empirical data through the lenses of functional affordances and socio-
technical systems theory. We will then develop a model that integrates the different af-
fordances and summarize our findings in a set of six key propositions.
16
Sensemaking Affordances
In the case organization, we found that information systems afforded possibilities for cogni-
tive activities through which individuals across the entire organization could frame, interpret,
and understand the multi-layered and complex issues related to the environmental sustainabil-
ity transformation. These activities describe a sensemaking process that is initiated when an
organization recognizes the inadequacy of their current understanding of events, and involves
turning circumstances into a situation that is comprehended explicitly and that enables the
enactment of new interpretations in organizational actions (Weick et al. 2005). This is an im-
portant process in the context of sustainability initiatives, as the multi-layered pressures lead-
ing to the transformation require organizations to adopt a greater openness towards new in-
formation, information from multiple sources, and information that challenges current beliefs
about work practices (Choo 2006).
We posit that the required organizational sensemaking process was enabled through function-
al affordances of reflective disclosure and information democratization, which enabled the
identification, provision, analysis, and interpretation of multi-layered information pertaining
to the new sustainability theme.
Reflective Disclosure Affordances
In the case organization, we found that certain information systems allowed communicative
actions through which individuals could imagine and articulate meaningful alternatives to the
current situation. The actions permitted through the use of these systems allowed to asses, and
in some cases alter, work practices in the light of the new multi-layered imperatives relevant
to the new sustainability theme. The information systems thus permitted individuals to alter
their belief formations, action formations, and outcome assessments as they relate to work
practices (Melville 2010).
17
Turning to the information system in use, an organization-wide intranet community platform
was accessible by all employees and provided data about environmental target and progress
indicators. Indicators used included the carbon footprint, total energy consumed, renewable
energy, or data center energy. Embedded systems typically presented this data visually. For
instance, dedicated software solutions provided information about the origins of environmen-
tally harmful emissions and wastage as well as deviations from predefined target values. Se-
lected user groups, including members of Sustainability Operations and the champion net-
work, were provided with additional functionalities for multidimensional analysis (e.g., online
analytical processing). The following statement that was made by the Head of Sustainability
Operations (Respondent A) exemplifies how the organization monitored green performance
indicators that had been defined by management, and how this data was provided to employ-
ees across the organization, in turn affording outcome assessment as well as belief and action
formation possibilities:
[…] We create transparency now that everybody has access […] to see how is the
printing behavior […] in Switzerland compared to Germany, to Japan, to the col-
leagues in the US; total number of pages average per employee, black and white ver-
sus color, double-sided versus one-sided, duplex versus simplex; and the trend. And it
is amazing, it’s encouraging, to see that sustainability starts with transparency and
that these campaigns are fruitful campaigns.
The same respondent continued to say that creation of awareness afforded by the information
system, indeed, induced action formation and, in turn, led to changed practices:
Sometimes paper now is the trigger to think and revisit processes […]. The printing
topic was the trigger to reduce printouts; but then the respective departments, like the
HR shared service center, who are sending out pay slips month per month to employ-
18
ees, [said they] could offer that in a solution where the employee decides “would I
like to have a printout or is online fine?” So this triggers a lotand it’s great to see.
Drawing on the concept of functional affordances, we conceptualize these action possibilities
of outcome assessment, belief formation, and action formation that were permitted by infor-
mation systems as reflective disclosure affordances (see Table 3).
Reflective disclosure affordances depend on material properties of information systems that
allow for the monitoring, analysis, and presentation of current work practices in terms of rel-
evant new performance indicators [technology]. Those information systems that monitor cur-
rent organizational practices from a viewpoint of sustainability indicators create an informa-
tional space in which reflective disclosure, the assessment of current practices, and the imagi-
nation of alternative (in the sense of more sustainable) work practices can occur. These mate-
rial properties are interpreted by individuals [people] as affording action possibilities for as-
sessing current work practices in light of the multilayered imperatives relevant to the new
sustainability theme. These management-defined imperatives are determined by the environ-
mental action goals and policies and are instilled through the sustainability champion network
[structure]. Table 4 provides a conceptual analysis of reflective disclosure affordances struc-
tured alongside the dimensions of STS theory.
Information Democratization Affordances
In the case organization, we found that certain information systems allowed individuals to
express, communicate, receive, interpret, and use information under their own responsibility.
These actions permitted through information systems allowed for the dissemination of sus-
tainability-related information from both internal and external sources to all levels of the or-
ganization, thereby enabling network cultivation of information (e.g., about targets, mile-
stones, planned and actual performance, and so forth), as well as the opportunity for organiza-
19
tional inclusion by inviting individuals to contribute ideas and feedback pertaining to the in-
formation disseminated.
Table 4: Conceptual analysis of reflective disclosure affordances
Material properties of in-
formation systems Use context
Structure People Task
Monitoring, analysis and
presentation features:
Monitoring of environ-
mental indicators (for in-
stance, collection of data
related to commuting,
paper consumption, ener-
gy consumption)
Presentation of environ-
mental indicators in rela-
tion to work practices
such as business travel,
sales, software develop-
ment, and others
Advanced analysis mech-
anisms for dedicated user
groups (e.g., through em-
bedded online analytical
processing functionality)
Definition of new envi-
ronmental key perfor-
mance indicators (carbon
footprint, total energy
consumption, renewable
energy consumption,
etc).
Establishment of a sus-
tainability champions
network to diffuse
knowledge about the
initiative and to induce
change on an individual
level.
Individuals were provided
with new personal work
targets related to the sus-
tainability theme.
Individuals were made
aware through extensive
communications and by
local sustainability cham-
pions.
The emerging new action
goals induce a re-
interpretation of the mate-
rial properties of the in-
formation systems as af-
fording action possibilities
for assessing and altering
current work practices
based on new environmen-
tal action goals.
Reassessment ef-
fect: affordances, if
realized, help indi-
viduals to reconsid-
er beliefs, actions,
and outcomes of
work practices in
light of sustainabil-
ity considerations,
thereby indirectly
impacting on the
establishment of
sustainable work
practices through
the imagination of
alternative actions
and outcomes.
The organization employed an enterprise portal solution that served as a central entry point
for accessing sustainability-related tools and information available on the company-wide in-
tranet. The portal allowed access to a wiki with environmental information, dashboards that
presented environmental target and progress indicators (in turn creating reflective disclosure
affordances), and a community platform that allowed for an open and inclusive dialog through
commentary and microblogging functionality. The following comment made by Respondent
G captures the actions permitted through the community platform well:
It’s kind of like Facebook, but you’re allowed to put topics on there and share docu-
ments and it’s really pulled our group of champions together because, when we dis-
cuss a topic, everybody kind of jumps in and gives their opinion. And if somebody
gives an opinion without really referencing where they got the information then […]
somebody will call them on it and say “hey, where’s your references?” And it really
20
helps us kind of educate one another on […] the information that’s on the Internet
versus what’s really factuallyand it gives us access to a lot of resources […].
In this statement it becomes visible how the community platform created a space for actions
related to an open and inclusive dialog, to the dissemination of information, and to the sub-
mission of queries, critique, and feedback. Consider the following commentary received via
the community platform by an employee who requested further information in relation to en-
vironmental performance assessment regarding newly introduced electric cars:
When you say that electric cars in [organizational location X] and [organizational lo-
cation Y] contribute to the energy savings in 2010, could you please explain how? I
understand that it contributes to reduce CO2 emissions, but I cannot see the point with
energy consumption.
As illustrated, the intranet platform played a vital role in diffusion and network cultivation of
knowledge around the initiative.
We conceptualize these action possibilities that were permitted by this information system as
information democratization affordances (see Table 3).
Information democratization affordances depend on material properties of information sys-
tems that allow diffusion of information about the sustainability theme together with mecha-
nisms to personalize, comment, feedback, and propagate the information across the organiza-
tion [technology]. These material properties are interpreted by individuals [people] as afford-
ing action possibilities for expressing, communicating, receiving, and interpreting information
in the light of environmental action goals and policies that were defined by management
[structure]. The emergent functional affordances permit actions that relate to the establish-
ment of an open and inclusive dialog [task] about the transformation, the inclusion of contri-
butions from all organizational levels, and the development of organizational feedback struc-
tures. Table 5 provides a conceptual analysis of information democratization affordances.
21
Table 5: Conceptual analysis of information democratization affordances
Material properties of
information systems Use context
Structure People Task
Information access and
interaction features:
Website features
o Dynamic infor-
mation visualiza-
tion
o Hyper linking
o Live feedback
o Commenting
o Micro blogging
Online discussion
Content sharing
E-Mail support
Definition of new envi-
ronmental key perfor-
mance indicators (carbon
footprint, total energy
consumption, renewable
energy consumption, etc.).
Initiative management
characterized by grass
roots involvement and
encouragement of an in-
clusive dialogue.
Individuals were encour-
aged to engage with the
initiative and to actively
participate though com-
mentaries, feedback, and
inquiries.
The emerging new action
goal of contributing to
the initiative induced a
re-interpretation of the
material properties of the
information system as
affording action possibil-
ities for expressing,
communicating, receiv-
ing, interpreting, and
using information in light
of the sustainability
theme.
Participation effect:
Information democratiza-
tion affordances, if real-
ized, assist individuals in
actively participating in
the transformation
through network cultiva-
tion and organizational
inclusion effects. These
effects increase aware-
ness and motivation,
which in turn indirectly
impact on the establish-
ment of sustainable work
practices through the
formation of new action
goals and the imagina-
tion of alternative actions
and outcomes.
Sustainable Practicing Affordances
Aided by the sensemaking process described above, we found that information systems also
contributed to the establishment of environmentally sustainable work practices directly. At
the case organization, information systems permitted sustainable practices, which we define
as activities that exert a minimal negative impact on the environment, in terms of the con-
sumption of renewable and non-renewable resources and the associated assimilation of emis-
sions and waste (Goodland 1995).
We posit that two specific classes of functional affordances, namely output management and
delocalization, permitted sustainable practices to be established in the organizational work
systems.
Output Management Affordances
In the case organization, we found that certain information systems provided action possibili-
ties that allowed individuals to confine their work practices to the boundaries of certain sus-
tainability regulations and norms (e.g., consumption of paper or other non-renewable, harm-
22
ful, or environmentally undesirable resources) by assessing, and in case reducing, the envi-
ronmentally harmful outputs of work practices along with associated resource consumption
levels. This allowed limiting the execution of work practices to those activities, or sequences
of activities, that were in line with the objectives specified by the sustainability theme.
Being a software company without a physical production process, output management mainly
concerned the production of paper-based output (e.g., documents, forms, charts letters, etc).
Centralized configuration systems were installed that allowed to place global restrictions on
the use of printers throughout the organization. These systems were complemented by data
monitoring and analysis systems that allowed for controlling of the activities around the crea-
tion of paper-based work output as one of the key contributors to environmental waste pro-
duction. For instance, environmentally harmful outputs of paper-based work practices could
be reduced by configuring printing systems to double-sided, black and white printing. Re-
spondent A, referring to how output management was achieved through a new system and
process for controlling printing settings, stated:
We changed all the default settings on a global basis and now you have to invest time
if you still would like to have simplex printing, if you would like to have color printing.
And the default is now black and white and duplex […]. Having thousands of thou-
sands of printers world-wide, it’s quite an effort. We call it the printing optimization
project, triggered and led from [the IT department].
Managing environmentally harmful outputs not only required centralizing administration and
configuration, but in some cases also replacing old printing devices with new ones that of-
fered appropriate job storage and duplex printing functionality, thus allowing for a reduction
of the total number of printers available.
The centralized configuration of the printing infrastructure was further complemented by out-
put controlling systems. Respondent D noted:
23
So we installed a paper tracker where we measured the print outs of all our employees
through IT. For most of our locations, we know the exact amount of how much paper
we print […] and raise awareness among our employees to reduce the print outs, or
print on both sides, and print black and white. And there we had really good measure-
able results by almost twenty percent.
We conceptualize these possibilities of limiting environmentally unfaithful execution of work
practices by reducing the environmentally harmful outputs as output management affordances
(see Table 3). Congruent with the idea of process restrictiveness (Wheeler and Valacich
1996), output management does not imply the deterministic prevention of unfaithful applica-
tion but rather the development of a material agency suggesting a particular, faithful appropri-
ation (DeSanctis and Poole 1994)—in our case, an environmentally conscious appropriation.
Output management affordances depend on material properties of information systems that
support individuals in a faithful, intended use through output configuration and controlling
features [technology]. These material properties can be interpreted by individuals [people] as
affording action possibilities for less environmentally harmful work practices (in terms of
energy efficiency, greenhouse gas emissions, use of environmentally harmful materials, and
inclusion of reuse and recycling) [task] in the light of environmental action goals and perfor-
mance indicators that were defined by management [structure]. Table 6 provides a conceptual
analysis of output management affordances.
24
Table 6: Conceptual analysis of output management affordances
Material properties of
information systems Use context
Structure People Task
Configuration features:
Centralized device
administration and con-
figuration (e.g., duplex
printing, black and
white printing)
Access control
Controlling features:
Paper-based output
monitoring (printing
dashboard)
Visualization on corpo-
rate intranet
Definition of new poli-
cies related to material
consumption in work
practices, and definition
of personal targets in
relation to material use.
Definition of new norms
and certification bodies
for the use of print mate-
rials in training, sales,
and marketing.
Establishment of a train-
ing program to educate
employees about reduced
paper use.
Through organizational
sensemaking efforts, indi-
viduals were (a) educated
to reduce material con-
sumption in work practic-
es, and (b) conditioned to
environmentally friendly
paper-based work practices
(e.g., through information
displayed in public output
management systems).
Default settings condi-
tioned new practices, re-
sulting in extra effort to
engage in less sustainable
practices.
Behavior conditioning
effect:
Output management
affordances condition
actions characterized
by reduced resource
and energy consump-
tion, and thus directly
impact on the estab-
lishment of environ-
mentally sustainable
work practices. The
conditioning effect
manifested from output
management af-
fordances because
individuals need to opt-
out of environmentally
preferred ways of
working.
Delocalization Affordances
In the case organization, certain information systems provided action possibilities that permit-
ted work practices to become location-independent through the digitization of work artifacts
and the electronic transmission of tasks and outputs. As a consequence, the negative sustaina-
bility impact stemming from resource movement to the location of work could be reduced
(e.g., traveling of sales staff). The case data indicate that business flights and corporate cars
were the top two greenhouse gas emission drivers (for example, at levels of above forty and
twenty per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions prior to the sustainability transformation),
clearly indicating resource movement as a key element in the work practices within the organ-
ization, and in turn suggesting location-dependence as a key factor in the sustainability trans-
formation.
The case organization provided information systems for virtual collaboration, which empow-
ered employees to fundamentally re-think and consequently change their work practices in
terms of the movement of resources to the location of work. Respondent P stated:
25
Another example is physical travel. We have dedicated media rooms. […]In my daily
work I’m using […] phoning and conferencing and […] [technology name]; so this
collaboration tools allow to talk to people and, by switching on just the camera, the
room is more like a kind of physical […] meeting than just having a normal phone. So
I do not need to fly over to the US just to do meetings. So when you need physical
meetings, you will not get rid of them […], but you can dramatically reduce the
amount of meetings needed.
In the case organization, virtual collaboration systems providing file sharing and communica-
tion features afforded the establishment of changes within those work practices that relied on
resource movement (e.g., those of sales agents, consultants, or management). The potential to
change allowed by the delocalization is epitomized in the following statement made by Re-
spondent S, who calls this “reengineering yourself”:
There’s a personal impact, you can reengineer yourself […]. You’re used to one way
for years and years and years, now you’ve got a new way. And I think the impact on
the company […] and the customer is both positive—the customer gets more attention,
more work out of you and [the company] gets more work out of you. And the impact
on the environment […]—you know that millions of people do the same thing—I can
imagine the positive impact on the environment that would have.
We conceptualize these action possibilities that were permitted by information systems as
delocalization affordances (see Table 3).
Delocalization affordances depend on information systems that provide features for file shar-
ing (applications as well as documents and other content), and virtual communication (in
terms of video conferencing, phone conferencing, and instant messaging) [technology]. These
material properties of information systems afford action possibilities for location-independent
collaboration (such as customer presentations, software development meetings, virtual train-
26
ings, sales, and home office work) [task] by individuals [people] that adopt the environmental
action goals and policies that were defined by management [structure]; in turn, leading to re-
duced physical travel and carbon emissions. Table 7 provides a conceptual analysis of delo-
calization affordances.
Table 7: Conceptual analysis of delocalization affordances
Material properties of
information systems Use context
Structure People Task
File sharing features:
Document sharing
Application sharing
Communication features:
Phone conferencing
Video conferencing
Instant messaging
Definition of new per-
formance indicators for
the use of employee
travel means.
Establishment of new
policies regarding use of
corporate cars, business
travels, and work com-
muting (e.g., provision of
rail tickets instead of
leased cars).
New policies and reduction
of travel-related staff in-
centives enforced recon-
sideration of work practic-
es that rely on resource
movement.
Organizational
sensemaking processes
raised motivation, attitude,
and awareness of individu-
als to reconsider work
practices.
Education provided
through local sustainability
champion networks illus-
trated systems-enabled
solutions for remote work.
Work virtualization ef-
fect:
Delocalization af-
fordances created new
action possibilities char-
acterized as location-
independent work prac-
tices, thus reducing re-
source movement and
related carbon emissions,
and thus directly impact-
ing on the sustainability
of work practices.
An Integrated Model of Functional Affordances in the Sus-
tainability Transformation Process
We now present an integrated model of the sustainability transformation process that de-
scribes the inter-relationships between the identified functional affordances and their relation-
ships to the other elements of the organizational system. In developing these inter-
relationships, we draw on socio-technical systems theory as a lens to identify relevant ele-
ments of the organizational system in which the affordances are situated.
Our model explains how management interventions [structure], user characteristics [people],
and material properties of information systems [technology] are interwoven in creating func-
tional affordances that, if enacted, lead to organizational sensemaking and sustainable work
27
practices [task] as the key manifestations of the sustainability transformation. Figure 1 shows
our view of this model. In turn, we first discuss the key elements of our model and then pre-
sent a set of key propositions that emerge as conjectures from this discussion.
Figure 1: A Model of functional affordances from information systems that enable a
sustainability transformation
The Origination of Functional Affordances from the Material Properties of In-
formation Systems
The model in Figure 1 summarizes the specific material properties of information systems
that provide the basis for the emergence of functional affordances of sensemaking and sus-
tainable practicing:
28
(1) Information systems with monitoring, analysis, and presentation features allow reflec-
tive disclosure for a broad base of employees across the entire organization,
(2) information systems with information access and interaction features allow for infor-
mation democratization across the organization,
(3) information systems with output configuration and controlling features allow for re-
ducing environmentally harmful outputs associated with paper consumption for em-
ployees, and
(4) information systems with file-sharing and communication features allow for the delo-
calization of work for users who are engaged in collaboration between geographically
distributed locations, including consultants, sales persons, and software developers.
The Stimulation of Information Systems Re-Interpretation through Management
Interventions
Functional affordances of sensemaking and sustainable practicing depend on appropriate ac-
tion goal setting through management interventions. These interventions include the defini-
tion of new strategic targets (along with according performance measurements) and work pol-
icies congruent to the sustainability theme. The establishment of the new action goals is stim-
ulated through the introduction of new organizational role models (the champion network)
that showcase the formation and adoption of new action-goals. These measures, in turn, allow
for a re-interpretation of information systems in the light of the new action goals, in turn con-
tributing to the identification of the functional affordances. Consider the following statement
that was made by Respondent A:
There’s a clear companywide target [with regard to reducing paper consumption]
which is twenty percent that is transparent to everybody and everybody at [case or-
ganization] can see the monthly changes in a very nice way; […] we [provide] soft-
ware to present that. The same is valid then if you look at the electricity consumption.
29
There are clear target settings for local and regional facility managers. They have it
in their objectives and their incentive scheme—so they really feel if they are on track
with their targets or not.
In this statement it becomes apparent how material properties of information systems (“we
[provide] software to present that”) and newly established performance indicators (“clear
companywide target”) together prepare the ground for successful sensemaking activities, as
users re-interpret the use of the systems in the light of their new action goals (in this case
printing less in order to reduce paper consumption).
The Role of Action Goals, Awareness, Motivation, and Attitude in Interpreting
Functional Affordances
Functional affordances of sensemaking and sustainable practicing emerge when the material
properties of information systems are interpreted by individuals with new, sustainability-
related action goals. We found the emergence of new action goals for interpreting information
systems in use to be particularly determined by environmental awareness, motivation, and
attitude. Individuals must be aware of the role that sustainability plays both for the organiza-
tion and for society as a whole. This also includes the organization’s sustainability targets as
well as available policies and guidelines, and leads to an awareness of those information sys-
tems that can enable and support sustainable practicing.
In the case organization, much effort was related to creating awareness among employees
across the entire company, most notably through the use of the sustainability champions net-
work, but also through information democratization. Respondent B noted:
I think what we [Sustainability Operations] are doing most of our time is […] talking
to the different departments […] and trying to make them think about sustainability.
We cannot change the company, but our task is that the others change their behavior.
30
So it’s really critical to reach those people in their responsive areas, and that they in-
clude sustainability in their thinking.
The growing awareness of environmental concerns was used as a mechanism to instill intrin-
sic motivation to act sustainablyas sustainability-aware employees (Collins et al. 2007).
These two mechanisms, in turn, created a positive attitude towards change, which prepared
the individuals to adopt new ways of working.
The Realization of Sustainable Work Practices on the Basis of Functional Af-
fordances
The realization of the functional affordances depends on both existing management interven-
tion and user characteristics that permit a re-interpretation of information systems in use.
Functional affordances emerge when the material properties of information systems [technol-
ogy] are interpreted as affording action possibilities [task] congruent with the imposed new
action-goals of individuals [people]. These are instilled through new action goals set through
the definition of target performance indicators and green work policies [structure]. In order to
lead to sustainable work practices, the action possibilities afforded by information systems
must be realized, in turn depending on awareness, motivation, and attitude of individuals in
the light of the new management-instilled action goals.
Similarly, we found that a lack of awareness, negative attitudes towards change, or a lack of
intrinsic motivation can act as change barriers; this suggests that these factors condition
whether or not the action possibilities afforded by the material properties of information sys-
tems are realized. Consider the following statement made by a respondent with a rather nega-
tive attitude towards the sustainability transformation, and also an apparent low level of
awareness regarding the initiative:
I am not sure if I receive that [information about the sustainability transformation]
and if I don’t read it or if I even don’t receive it. But the consequence is the same.
31
This personbecause of low levels of awareness and a rather negative attitudeis less likely
to engage in a process of sensemaking than is the following person, with a rather positive atti-
tude:
Interviewer: Do you receive any newsletters about sustainability?
Respondent: Once in a while, yes.
Interviewer: Do you actually read them […]?
Respondent: Well, because I’m interested in the topic, I try to read them but as I say,
it’s one of a hundred which comes across during the course of the year and so half the
time I read them, but not always.
Our case analysis shows how the realization of functional affordances permitted through in-
formation systems can be described through two key effects: First, if sensemaking affordanc-
es are identified and realized, initiative participation and action reassessment can be observed
which we conceptualize as manifestations of organizational sensemaking as shown in Figure
1. Individuals across the organization buy into the new change theme, contribute actively, and
begin to alter the beliefs, actions, and outcomes relating to their work practices. Second, if
sustainable practicing affordances are identified and realized, behavior conditioning and work
virtualization can be observed, which we conceptualize as manifestations of sustainable work
practicing as shown in Figure 1. These are a manifestation of individuals starting to (a) insti-
tutionalize environmentally friendly behavioral routines instead of opting into less environ-
mental practices, and (b) virtualize work practices that usually involved resources to move to
locations of work.
The Co-Dependence between Reflective Disclosure and Information Democra-
tization Affordances
Information democratization affordances provide action possibilities to disseminate sustaina-
bility-related information across different levels of the organization. This dissemination al-
32
lows for participation effects in terms of an open and inclusive dialog, which then promotes
reflective disclosure across individuals and groups on all levels of the organization. To that
end, reflective disclosure affordances depend on the action possibilities provided by infor-
mation democratization affordances in order to be effective. At the same time, information
democratization affordances depend on the basis of information acquisition and collation pro-
vided through information systems that create reflective disclosure affordances. Notably, for
information democratization to be effective, individuals providing their opinions and
knowledge around the initiative are dependent on reassessment effects enabled through reflec-
tive disclosure processes afforded by information systems.
The co-dependence between the two functional affordances becomes visible when examining
how the information systems converged in the case organization. For example, the dashboards
that provided features allowing for reflective disclosure were also integrated with the intranet
community platform and could be readily accessed from all employees across the organiza-
tion. The sustainability initiative community platform also provided features that created re-
flective disclosure affordances (through functionality such as online analytical processing and
performance analysis customization) in conjunction with features of information systems that
we can link to information democratization affordances (such as commentary, micro blog-
ging, discourse, and feedback functionality).
The Promotion of Sustainable Practicing Affordances through Sensemaking
Affordances
Affordances of reflective disclosure and information democratization together allow for par-
ticipation and reassessment across the organization. These sensemaking affordances, in turn,
promote the action possibilities that are permitted through sustainable practicing affordances.
Participation induces higher levels of motivation to change work practices, and also allows
33
for learning opportunities about new ways of working. Reassessment provides the foundation
on which a re-interpretation of information systems in work practices becomes possible.
In the case organization, first, information systems that created sensemaking and sustainable
practicing affordances could be accessed via the same portal. Second, the information systems
that created sensemaking affordances and the data they provided related directly to the impact
from individual-level actions that were permitted through sustainability practicing affor-
dances. The dashboards, for instance, provided specific and detailed information on carbon
emissions along with the causing types of commuting, such as percentage of employees walk-
ing, using public transport, motor bikes, cars, or working from home. The data and analysis
features provided allowed the breakdown of information to an individual activity level, allow-
ing individuals to asses and re-think individual work practices and the resulting consequences
on an organizational level.
The information systems that provided sensemaking affordances further were linked directly
to those that provided delocalization or output management affordances. For instance, printer
usage data from the output management systems were fed back into the community platform.
This platform also provided direct access to virtual meeting rooms, in turn promoting the use
of delocalization affordances in work practices requiring resource movement.
Key Propositions Emerging From the Analysis
Based on our analysis of the case data and our emergent model, we identify a set of key prop-
ositions that relate to our specific research question of how information systems contribute to
the implementation of sustainable work practices.
First, our study suggests that sustainability transformations require a process of organizational
sensemaking, which results in participation and reassessment effects:
P1. Sustainability transformations require an organizational sensemaking process.
34
We identified two classes of affordances that contribute to organizational sensemaking: re-
flective disclosure and information democratization. The category of reflective disclosure
captures action possibilities that play an important role in forming beliefs and actions as well
as assessing outcomes of work practices and that thus contribute to an organizational
sensemaking process:
P2. Reflective disclosure affordances allow for a reconsideration of belief formation, ac-
tion formation, and outcome assessment related to work practices.
The category of information democratization captures action possibilities that allow employ-
ees across the organization to participate in the sustainability transformation and that thus
contribute to an organizational sensemaking process:
P3. Information democratization affordances allow for participation in the decisions made
as part of the transformation.
It became further apparent that reflective disclosure affordances and information democratiza-
tion affordances are mutually dependent: reflective disclosure depends on the action possibili-
ties provided by information democratization affordances, while information democratization
affordances depend on the basis of information acquisition and collation provided by reflec-
tive disclosure affordances.
Second, our study suggests that sustainability transformations require the implementation of
sustainable practices, for instance, resulting in behavior conditioning and work virtualization
effects:
P4. Sustainability transformations require the implementation of sustainable practices.
We identified two classes of affordances that contribute to sustainable practicing: output man-
agement and delocalization. The category of output management captures action possibilities
that allow monitoring environmentally harmful outputs created through work and condition-
ing individuals’ work practices to the boundaries of certain sustainability regulations and
35
norms, thereby reducing environmentally harmful outputs along with the associated consump-
tion of renewable and non-renewable resources:
P5. Output management affordances allow for monitoring environmentally harmful out-
puts created through work and conditioning individuals’ work practices to the bound-
aries of certain sustainability regulations and norms.
The category of delocalization captures action possibilities that allow work practices to be-
come location independent, thereby reducing environmentally harmful outputs along with the
associated consumption of renewable and non-renewable resources:
P6. Delocalization affordances allow for work practices to become location independent
through the digitization of work artifacts and the electronic transmission of tasks and
outputs.
Finally, our study suggests that the sensemaking process proffered by functional affordances
of information democratizating and reflective disclosure promotes the action possibilities that
are permitted through sustainable practicing affordances. Through the sensemaking process,
individuals more readily adopt new action-goals congruent with the sustainability theme,
which allows them to re-interpret information systems as providing functional affordances
that allow for sustainable practicing.
Two Vignettes of Sensemaking and Sustainable Practicing
We now present two vignettes from the case organization, which exemplify the grounding of
our four emergent propositions in the case data. The vignettes illustrate how functional af-
fordances of sensemaking and sustainable practicing emerged as users re-interpreted the ma-
terial properties of information systems in a newly defined use context with new sustainabil-
ity-related action goals and how they were realized, creating sustainable work practices in
turn.
36
Reduction of Carbon Emissions Enabled by Delocalization Affordances
Instilled by management mandate in conjunction with a more restrictive travel policy and
newly defined targets related to the reduction of carbon emissions, the organization’s IT de-
partment provided information systems with material properties of file-sharing and communi-
cation, in particular through new video conferencing software and hardware. These material
properties were interpreted by individuals in light of the new, sustainability-oriented action
goals within specific use contexts. One such use context is the need of consultants to verbally
and also visually communicate with clients and to exchange contents such as contracts, inter-
im and final solution reports. A new policy reduced the allowance scheme for sales-related
travel as well as the provision of corporate cars to field staff, in turn imposing new action
goals (maintain work and outcomes whilst reducing carbon emissions). Whether or not the
according sustainable practicing affordance was realized, depended largely on the individual
awareness and attitude towards using the systems. Consider the following statement made by
Respondent P, a consultant, who argued that the use of such software is all but mandatory:
But the question if I’m using those tools or if I’m, let’s say, following my in-official de-
fault process, and just phoning or trying to travel to the people—this decision, my de-
cision to make use of this, is driven by usability and ease of use.
This example thus shows how information systems afford action possibilities in a wider so-
cio-technical context, but the realization of this affordance, and the associated consequences
of that realization, are not deterministic.
Reduction of Paper and Energy Consumption Enabled by Output Management
Affordances
Very early on, a management policy identified paper-based practices as a focus of the trans-
formation as stated in the corporate sustainability report:
37
Our first objective is to reduce the amount of paper consumption overall within the
company, by continuing to educate employees and to review our use of paper for
packaging, marketing material, and training supplies. Our second objective will be to
evaluate ways of using more recycled paper in higher consumption areas such as toi-
let paper, printing, and packaging.
In response, two types of substantial changes were implemented. First, the technical basis was
created by means of introducing new printers with duplex functionality. Second, a centralized
printing governance system solution was introduced that used pre-settings such as duplex
printing and black and white printing, and also implemented controlling mechanisms to moni-
tor print outputs. Functional affordances of output management emerged, as the new action
possibilities were interpreted by individuals in their use contexts and in the light of these new
action goals. Resulting action goals were the reduction of paper and energy consumption, and
use contexts could be found where individuals had the goal or habit to print any sort of docu-
ment. As individuals were still allowed to change the printer settings, they had to commit to
this greener work practice in order to actually enact more sustainable work practices; that is,
employees were not constrained. Still, the “opt out” mechanism inherent in the functional
affordance conditioned individuals in that it routinized greener work practices and forced
them to actively pursue (with extra effort) less sustainable ones. Thus, the output management
affordance assisted individuals in implementing and habitualizing sustainable behavior.
Individuals were further provided with information about paper consumption through new
monitoring capabilities in the output management systems, which, in turn, impacted on their
own work re-assessment, thus showing the promoting effects between sensemaking and sus-
tainable practicing affordances.
38
Discussion and Implications
We identified in the literature a set of open questions that essentially relate to (1) how organi-
zations make sense of the emerging sustainability theme, (2) how the use of information sys-
tems changes, and (3) how work practices can be improved through the use of information
systems (see Table 1). Through our work, we are able to provide empirical and analytical an-
swers to these questions. We summarize these in Table 8.
In essence, our work provides a first answer to the question “how exactly do information sys-
tems contribute to sustainability transformations?” The answer lies in the actionable spaces
that are created by information systems and which can be enacted by humans to (a) make
sense of the changes induced by the sustainability theme and (b) establish work practices that
are in line with sustainability goals.
The research we undertook leading to this conceptualization provides at least four sets of im-
plications. Table 9 summarizes these sets of implications and identifies 19 research questions
that emerged from our study and which we discuss in turn.
39
Table 8: Summary of key findings in relation to literature
Identified research questions Key finding from analysis Relation to literature
Which pressures apply to or-
ganizations? Pressure from value chain suppliers [normative], customers [cultural-cognitive],
and legislative bodies [regulative] Congruent with Butler (2011)
How do organizations make
sense of the pressures and driv-
ers?
Through a managerial interpretation of the pressures in terms of opportunity and
threat and the accordant definition of a new strategy and performance indicators Congruent with Sharma (2000)
How is organizational
sensemaking assisted through
information systems?
Information systems providing monitoring, analysis, and presentation features in
relation to environmental indicator data provide reflective disclosure affordances.
Information systems providing information access and interaction features in
relation to the sustainability transformation theme provide information democrati-
zation affordances.
Extension to theories of IS-enabled transfor-
mations (Elliot 2011)
Extension to theories of functional affordances
created through IS (e.g., Markus and Silver 2008;
Zammuto et al. 2007)
How do managerial decisions
influence the use of information
systems in work practices?
Management defines new action goals that relate to individual work practices. In
light of new action goals, individuals need to re-interpret their use of information
systems.
Congruent with theories of functional affordances
created through IS (e.g., Markus and Silver 2008;
Zammuto et al. 2007)
How are new values and goals
instilled in individuals through-
out the organization?
Through management interventions in terms of
- new performance indicators
- new organizational structures and policies
- utilization of local sustainability champions
Congruent with management literature on sustain-
ability transformations (e.g., Andersson and
Bateman 2000; Ramus and Steger 2000)
How does the use of infor-
mation systems change in light
of new action goals and values?
How do new requirements alter
the use of information systems?
The use of information systems changes if and when individuals alter their inter-
pretation of the material properties of information systems in terms of how infor-
mation systems allow them to meet new action goals congruent with the environ-
mental sustainability theme.
Congruent with, and extension of, theories of func-
tional affordances (e.g., Leonardi 2011; Markus
and Silver 2008)
How do work practices change
in light of new values and goals
on the basis of information
systems?
Work practices change to more environmentally sustainability practices if behav-
ior conditioning and work virtualization effects occur as manifestations of the
realization of functional affordances congruent with the environmental sustaina-
bility theme.
Extension of theories of functional affordances
created through IS (e.g., Markus and Silver 2008;
Zammuto et al. 2007)
What are the positive and nega-
tive consequences of infor-
mation systems to the change of
work practices?
Sensemaking and sustainable practicing affordances originating from information
systems can lead to positive consequences if realized. The realization of the af-
fordances is conditioned by awareness, motivation, and attitude of individuals.
Congruent with theories of sustainability-aware
employees (Collins et al. 2007)
Congruent with theories of functional affordances
created through information systems (e.g., Markus
and Silver 2008; Zammuto et al. 2007)
When do positive consequences
emerge? Positive consequences in terms of more environmentally sustainability practices
emerge when individuals interpret information systems as providing sensemaking
and sustainable practicing affordances, and then realize them.
Extension to theories of IS-enabled transfor-
mations (Elliot 2011)
Extension to theories of Green IS (e.g., Dedrick
2010; Watson et al. 2010; Watson et al. 2008)
40
Table 9: Implications and emergent research questions
Understanding the role of green information systems
Socio-technical
conditions for cre-
ating and enacting
functional af-
fordances of green
IS
RQ1 What are appropriate sustainability goals for organizations in order to invoke a
process of re-interpreting information systems in line with the goals of the sus-
tainability theme?
RQ2 What are appropriate policies and structures for organizations in order to invoke
a process of reinterpreting information systems in line with goals of the sustaina-
bility theme?
RQ3 Which individual characteristics influence the faithful appropriation of infor-
mation systems congruent with the goals of the sustainability theme?
Appropriation and
(re-) interpretation
of green affordanc-
es from emergent
IS innovations
RQ4 Which green information systems innovations lead to the emergence of function-
al affordances that can contribute to sustainability transfo
r
mations?
RQ5 How do individuals and organizations interpret emerging information systems
innovations in light of sustainability requirements?
RQ6 Which green information systems innovations will be faithfully adapted and used
in the establishment of environmentally sustainable work practices?
Effects of green IS
affordances on
belief formation,
action formation,
and outcome as-
sessment
RQ7 What are the specific changes in psychic states through the realization of
sensemaking affordances of reflective disclosure and information democratiza-
tion?
RQ8 How does the successful implementation of sustainable practices, proffered by
sustainable practicing affordances, impact on belief formation, action formation,
and outcome assessment?
Designing green information systems
Building functional
affordances into the
design of green IS
RQ9 Which functional affordances should deliberately be considered in the design of
green information systems?
RQ10 What are the different ways in which functional affordances can be purposefully
integrated into the design of green information systems?
Functional af-
fordances required
for sustainability
transformations
RQ11 What are additional functional affordances that contribute to sustainability trans-
formations?
RQ12 What are appropriate designs for information systems to create functional af-
fordances that contribute to sustainability transformations?
Development pro-
cesses for green IS RQ13 How is the design of green information systems different to that of traditional
information systems?
RQ14 Which are the information relevant to the sustainability theme that must be
transmitted, processed, and stored by a green information system, and what are
the functional affordances that can be realized upon these?
RQ15 In how far are existing systems development approaches fit for the design of
green information systems?
Managing sustainability transformations
Managing sustain-
ability transfor-
mations
RQ16 What is an appropriate approach for organizations to make decisions about
whether the creation of a desired functional affordance requires to invest into
infrastructure, or whether existent infrastructures can be used?
RQ17 How can organizations improve the accessibility of functional affordances in
order to increase affordance realization?
Developing the concept of functional affordances
Functional af-
fordances in IS
research
RQ18 How can functional affordances of information systems be identified?
RQ19 What is an appropriate way to operationalize functional affordances in IS re-
search?
41
Implications for Understanding the Role of Green Information Systems
By weaving functional affordances into the relationships between the subsystems of the so-
cio-technical work system, we were able to contextualize our knowledge around the use and
effects of information systems in organizations (e.g., Zammuto et al. 2007) in the specific
context of sustainability initiatives. Specifically, we found evidence for the necessary socio-
technical conditions that enable material properties of information systems to create function-
al affordances that are required for, and specific to, sustainability transformations.
Our work thereby links to research on the organizational processes of information systems
use, in which one important vein of research is to identify the relevant appropriation media-
tors that guide the faithful use of information systems to realize the built-in affordances
(Wheeler and Valacich 1996). Our work identified these mediators in the form of goal-setting
interventions, policies, and champion definition (i.e., management interventions) and the role
of action goals, awareness, motivation, and attitude (i.e., user characteristics) in the specific
context of sustainability transformations. Continuing from this view, we identify the follow-
ing emerging research questions:
1. What are appropriate sustainability goals for organizations in order to invoke a process of
re-interpreting information systems in line with the goals of the sustainability theme?
2. What are appropriate policies and structures for organizations in order to invoke a process
of reinterpreting information systems in line with goals of the sustainability theme?
3. Which individual characteristics influence the faithful appropriation of information sys-
tems congruent with the goals of the sustainability theme?
These questions will require research that examines specifically the governance of green in-
formation systems projects at an organizational and strategic level (questions 1 and 2) and
research that examines information systems use and appropriation (question 3) at an individu-
al level.
42
Second, functional affordances emerge and evolve with changing technological and organiza-
tional features (Majchrzak et al. 2007). Continuing innovations will create further options for
affordances, creating a need to constantly assess and improve our understanding of infor-
mation systems and the functional affordances potentially originating from their interpretation
and use. As both organizations and functional affordances are the product of deliberate de-
sign, yet highly interwoven and complex, the resulting actionable contexts will likely be mu-
table and dynamic (Zammuto et al. 2007). In light of these arguments and our findings, we
ask:
4. Which green information systems innovations lead to the emergence of functional af-
fordances that can contribute to sustainability transformations?
5. How do individuals and organizations interpret emerging information systems innovations
in light of sustainability requirements?
6. Which green information systems innovations will be faithfully adapted and used in the
establishment of environmentally sustainable work practices?
The research opportunities that emerge from these challenges address green information sys-
tems as a design science challenge (question 4) but also ask questions about the diffusion of
innovations at an organizational and individual level (questions 5 and 6).
Third, our work proffers opportunities for further research around Melville’s (2010) Belief-
Action-Outcome Framework. The model identifies belief and action formation at the micro
level as impacting on, and being impacted by, macro level factors related to societal and or-
ganizational structure. Our findings are complementary to this view: while sensemaking af-
fordances of reflective disclosure and information democratization allow belief formation,
action formation, and outcome assessment (thus impacting on psychic states), sustainable
practicing affordances of delocalization and output management provide the action possibili-
43
ties that lead to the implementation of sustainable practices (thus impacting on individual be-
havior). The findings we obtained from our case analysis thus implore us to ask:
7. What are the specific changes in psychic states through the realization of sensemaking
affordances of reflective disclosure and information democratization?
8. How does the successful implementation of sustainable practices, proffered by sustainable
practicing affordances, impact on belief formation, action formation, and outcome as-
sessment?
These two questions concern psychological, cognitive, as well as behavioral challenges that
relate to green information systems. Overall, our selected research challenges clearly indicate
for both a possibility and need for multi-disciplinary study of green information systems and
the environmental consequences across individual, organizational, and societal levels.
Implications for Designing Green Information Systems
The identification of four important functional affordances relevant to sustainability transfor-
mations allows us to pinpoint classes of information systems that can provide the material
properties from which these affordances emerge. From our analysis, three primary implica-
tions emerge about how green information systems can be designed in the sense of systems
that support sustainability endeavors.
First, functional affordances originate from a design intention manifested in a technical object
(Markus and Silver 2008). It will thus be necessary to investigate how relevant functional
affordances can be deliberately considered in the design of green information systems. Our
investigation contributed to this stream of research by identifying specific material properties
that are relevant for classes of green information systems to afford processes of sensemaking
and sustainable practicing. Specifically, while much current design work around green infor-
mation systems is dedicated to exploring how information systems can directly contribute to
44
goals of eco-efficiency, eco-equity, or eco-effectiveness (e.g., Watson et al. 2008; Zhang et al.
2011), our work shows that systems are required to allow for both participation and reassess-
ment and sustainable practicing in order to effectively support sustainability transformations.
Based on these findings, we suggest the following research questions:
9. Which functional affordances should deliberately be considered in the design of green
information systems?
10. What are the different ways in which functional affordances can be purposefully integrat-
ed into the design of green information systems?
Second, we believe there is a need to extend our understanding of the functional affordances
created by information systems that matter to sustainability transformations. Watson et al.
(2010), for instance, highlight sensor networks and fleet management systems as information
systems relevant to sustainable energy use. While sensor networks, for example, can be envis-
aged to provide sensemaking affordances, they may further also create certain functional af-
fordances related to sustainable practicing, as they can empower a more efficient usage of
energy sources. Similarly, fleet management systems may create functional affordances of
more sustainable work practices, as their intent is to decrease the carbon emissions caused by
the delivery of goods.
While our strategy was to analyze information systems currently in use in terms of the func-
tional affordances they provide, a complementary approach could be to deliberately design
information systems with specific affordances and then examine whether (a) the affordances
emerge and (b) eco-positive ramifications ensue. In turn, we posit the following design re-
search questions:
11. What are additional functional affordances that contribute to sustainability transfor-
mations?
45
12. What are appropriate designs for information systems to create functional affordances that
contribute to sustainability transformations?
Third, while our work has shown which information systems provide material properties that
contribute to the emergence of functional affordances of sensemaking and sustainable practic-
ing, our analysis also suggests that these material properties are not necessarily reliant on
novel technologies or systems. Instead, we found that organizations leverage existent technol-
ogies in terms of hardware and software to design green information systems. Still, these sys-
tems are characterized by (a) the sustainability theme of the information that is transmitted,
processed, and stored (resulting in sensemaking affordances), and (b) the opportunities to use
these systems in order to create more sustainable work processes (resulting in sustainable
practicing affordances). These issues need to be considered when designing green information
systems, and lead to the following key design research questions:
13. How is the design of green information systems different to that of traditional information
systems?
14. Which are the information relevant to the sustainability theme that must be transmitted,
processed, and stored by a green information system, and what are the functional af-
fordances that can be realized upon these?
15. In how far are existing systems development approaches fit for the design of green infor-
mation systems?
Implications for Managing Sustainability Transformations
Next, from our research we identify two primary implications that relate to how organizations
can manage a sustainability transformation:
First, organizations can revisit their existing portfolio of information systems with regard to
the action possibilities these afford for sensemaking and sustainable practicing, and also con-
46
sider these affordances as explicit criteria when selecting software from vendors. As our study
has shown, the functional affordances that are required in sustainability transformations are
created mostly on basis of established technologies and software, in turn suggesting that sus-
tainable practicing can be enabled without major investments into infrastructure. We thus ask:
16. What is an appropriate approach for organizations to make decisions about whether the
creation of a desired functional affordance requires investments into infrastructure, or
whether existent infrastructures can be used?
Second, our study highlights the relevance of accessibility to affordances; this includes the
awareness that a certain affordance is proffered by a certain information system as well as
physical access to that system in order to enable individuals to realize an affordance. There-
fore, the challenge to management is to enable structures that allow the best use of infor-
mation systems. Notably, we found that the interpretation of functional affordances relied on
appropriate goal-setting mechanisms through management interventions. This refers predom-
inantly to establishing awareness, attitude, and motivation across all levels of the organiza-
tion, by setting appropriate strategic but also operational targets, and by employing local net-
works that championed sustainable practicing. Continuing from this view, we identify the
following emerging research question:
17. How can organizations improve the accessibility of functional affordances in order to in-
crease affordance realization?
Implications for Developing the Concept of Functional Affordances in Infor-
mation Systems Research
Finally, our study provides further evidence for the suitability of the nascent concept of func-
tional affordances for studying IS uses and effects (Markus and Silver 2008). Specifically, we
have shown how functional affordances emerge at the interface between material properties of
47
information systems, management interventions, and user characteristics in the use context of
a large-scale organizational transformation.
One of the outstanding challenges in the use of the functional affordances concept relates to
their identification, and the process by which affordances can be separated conceptually from
technology properties, user characteristics, and their use environments (Markus and Silver
2008).
Our study presents some progress in this regard, in that we have shown how a conceptual
analysis of the information systems use context can aid an understanding of the socio-
technical conditions under which functional affordances emerge. Still, we see this advance as
but one step towards more precise methodological guidelines around the use of the functional
affordances concept.
Our conceptual analysis also allowed us to understand the contexts in which functional af-
fordances emerged but were not realized. However, our analysis was interpretive and qualita-
tive in nature, and thus we realize that further work is required to operationalize the construct
of functional affordances for more precise measurement. Some preliminary work has been
completed in this regard (Grange and Benbasat 2010); however, our conceptual analysis
draws attention to several important socio-technical conditions that define the emergence and
consequences of functional affordances.
The key questions that emerge from our research are thus:
18. How can functional affordances of information systems be identified?
19. What is an appropriate way to operationalize functional affordances in IS research?
Limitations
Due to the interpretive nature of this research, it cannot be claimed that the phenomenon of
IS-enabled sustainability transformations has been explored exhaustively. It must be
acknowledged that the data, and the codes, may be interpreted differently by different people.
48
Still, we (a) took care in describing the procedures applied to ensure a clear chain of evidence,
(b) considered multiple viewpoints and interpretations, and (c) corroborated the findings from
our analysis by involving two researchers in performing and reviewing data coding and analy-
sis, conducting consensus-building discussions with the whole research, and using different
data collection methods. Through these measures, we believe that we successfully collected
sufficient amounts of data from multiple informants and different data sources to increase the
confidence in the conclusions drawn from the analysis. During our analysis, a trend towards
theoretical saturation suggested we had collected sufficient data to explore relevant factors
and interactions related to the role of information systems in sustainability transformations.
The generalizability of the findings may be limited due to the selection of a single case organ-
ization and the interpretive nature of this research. However, we took care in relating our find-
ings to existent theory in order to relate the idiographic details of the empirical case to theo-
retical concepts, in turn moving towards more formal theory. Our study can further be consid-
ered a revelatory case because the organization denotes one of few prime examples for a suc-
cessful sustainability transformation of a global, major information systems solutions provider
at a time where such evidence, or an emergent theory, was still outstanding.
Conclusions
We developed an integrated model of functional affordances originating from information
systems that enabled the sustainability transformation of a global software solutions provider.
Our research lends some evidence to the argument that the transformative power of infor-
mation systems is indeed a key enabler in creating a more environmentally sustainable society
(Watson et al. 2010) and it advances our understanding of the constituent characteristics of
sustainability transformations (Elliot 2011).
In conclusion, we learned through our work that the primary role of information systems in
sustainability transformation is to create affordances for sensemaking and sustainable practic-
49
ing that provide action possibilities for participation, re-assessment, behavior conditioning,
and work virtualization in an outcome assessment, belief formation, and action formation pro-
cess in relation to the environmental sustainability theme.
Acknowledgements
We thank the editorial team, Arvind Malhorta, Nigel Melville and Richard T. Watson, for
their detailed and developmental feedback, which helped us shape our work and which en-
hanced our theoretical contribution and implications. We are also indebted to the team of
anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments and suggestions. We would further like to
thank Cathy Urquhart and Suprateek Sarker for their valuable comments on our paper at times
when they were much needed. We also appreciate the support of Stephanie Raabe and Daniel
Schmid in organizing data access for this study.
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... Teachers can enhance higherorder thinking through student's engagement in complex tasks through collaboration [12] (p. 519), strengthening teamwork [7], knowledge sharing and critical thinking [13,14], holistic learning, and independent research, as well as enhancing teachers' and students' motivation to collaborate [8,15]. ...
... Studies have disclosed deficient use of ICT in teacher education programs [13,[16][17][18]. This low use of ICT has resulted in the incompetence of preservice teachers in the aspect of the analysis of the problem, evaluations, synthetization, solving the problem, and the effective drawing of attainable conclusions about their profession. ...
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... RO refers to the capability of information and communication technology to enable users to examine prior transactions. 34 The ability of m-payment applications to enable transaction traceback fulfills consumers' functional requirements to record spending and compare bills for financial planning and record-keeping; on the other hand, the autogenerated spending report, summarized by time, place, and category may create a sense of novelty that contributes to hedonic motivation, particularly during the early phase of m-payment development, which in turn drives users to adopt m-payment services. Moreover, RO is an underappreciated but highly relevant construct in the m-payment literature, 35 thus integrating it into the proposed research model is likely to yield novel findings that benefit both theoretical and practical realms of m-payment. ...
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Thesis
L’objectif de la thèse est d’explorer les actions et les perceptions des acteurs intervenants dans la transformation de ces espaces délaissés, au niveau d’un territoire (sur la base du cas de l’Aire Métropolitaine de Lyon-Saint-Etienne, LySEM), dans le contexte des changements globaux. Il s’agit en particulier de savoir si les acteurs mobilisent la transformation et/ou régénération des friches pour développer des trajectoires socio-économiques et écologiques soutenables, à l’échelle locale ? Et si oui, comment procèdent-ils ?Dans le chapitre 1, nous avons cherché à identifier les parties-prenantes à considérer lors de la mise en œuvre d’initiatives de transformation de friches, quelle qu’elle soit leur nature, et les logiques qui sous-tendent ces projets de transformation, en fonction des contextes et des enjeux au sein des territoires. Nous avons pu montrer dans le chapitre 2, sur la base d’exemples tirés de la littérature, les possibilités qui s’offrent aux acteurs pour redévelopper des friches sous une perspective socio-écologique, en soutenant les capacités adaptatives des systèmes écologiques et les capacités adaptatives des systèmes sociaux. Ainsi, nous avons proposé un cadre heuristique pour analyser la transformation des friches, avec un volet écosystémique, permettant de limiter les approches économico-centrée de ces initiatives.Dans le chapitre 3, nous avons d’abord, exploré la prise en compte des changements climatiques, dans la mise en œuvre de stratégies et d’actions pour l’adaptation et la préservation de la biodiversité. Cette analyse a montré que les acteurs, bien qu’ils soient conscient des impacts des changements climatiques au niveau local, les actions en faveur de l’atténuation et/ou l’adaptation climatique restent subordonnées aux intérêts limités du court-terme, notamment de nature socio-économique et aux approches de planification qui favorisent des réponses isolées, réactives. Nous avons pu constater aussi un fort intérêt pour la transformation des délaissés vers des espaces verts en les promouvant et en les concevant pour leurs avantages esthétiques, d'infrastructure verte et de loisirs, et dans une moindre mesure pour la biodiversité. Dans le chapitre 4, nous nous sommes focalisés sur les acteurs de l’aménagement du territoire intervenants de manière directe ou indirecte dans la transformation des friches, afin d’explorer leurs points de vue (world views) à propos de la mise en œuvre d’un changement qui permet une reconfiguration du système d’aménagement en vue de développer des trajectoires socio-économiques et écologiques soutenables, au niveau du terrain d’étude, LySEM. Nous nous sommes appuyés sur l’approche par la construction de récits de changement (ou narrative of change), pour analyser les dires des acteurs. Cette analyse a montré que les narratives produites remettent en question le modèle capitaliste de développement économique, sans pour autant proposer d’imaginaires alternatifs transformateurs. Les territoires tentent de remobiliser les sites en friches dans des logiques marchandes et répondre à des enjeux de compétitivité, d’optimisation du développement socio-économique, tout en intégrant des objectifs environnementaux comme outil d’aménagement. Dans le chapitre 5, nous avons réalisé une revue de littérature à propos de la transformabilité des systèmes socio-écologiques complexes afin de mettre l’accent sur les risques d’apparition de problèmes pernicieux qui peuvent entraver ces processus de transformations délibérées. La compréhension des processus sous-jacents aux transformations socio-écologiques apporte des éléments pour anticiper la mise en œuvre en identifiant les facteurs conduisant à l'émergence de problèmes pernicieux lors de la conception de transformations socio-écologiques.
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Transportation is a backbone of modern globalized societies. It also causes approximately one third of all European Union and U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, represents a major health hazard for global populations, and poses significant economic costs. However, rapid innovation in vehicle technology, mobile connectivity, computing hardware, and artificial intelligence (AI)-powered information systems heralds a deep socio-technical transformation of the sector. The emergence of connected, autonomous, shared, and electric (CASE) vehicle technology has created a digital layer that resides on top of the traditional physical mobility system. This article contributes a framework to direct research and practice toward leveraging the opportunities afforded by CASE for a more efficient and less environmentally problematic mobility system. The authors propose seven overarching dimensions of action. These range from designing real-time digital coordination mechanisms for the management of mobility systems to developing AI-powered real-time decision support for mobility resource planning and operations. Per each dimension, concrete angles of attack are suggested which, we hope, will spur structured engagement from both researchers and practitioners in the field.
Chapter
This study focuses on Twitter affordances and sense-making outcomes during a single emergency situation. By using an interpretive affordance lens, this study aims to assess rumors as influencers of sense-making during the 2017 Manchester terrorist attack. The authors combined a quantitative network analysis with a qualitative content analysis to assess the role of rumors during the emergency management after the attack. This study provides argumentative grounds for the notion of sense-making as a consequence of affording social media and builds on prior research to place sense-making as a cognitive process within the affordance concept. The authors emphasize new potentials to prevent or control rumors on social media for practitioners and contribute insights to rumor research. Namely, the authors contribute a novel perspective of rumors and their role during emergency management on social media.
Purpose Despite the significance of online communication and interactions, previous research has not systematically compared all features on a single platform from the users' perspective. This study aims to fill this gap by extensively reviewing the current literature on social media affordances and proposes and tests a feature-centric and affordance-based conceptualization of social media platforms (SMPs) between users, features, the audience and content. Design/methodology/approach This research surveys users on Facebook, one of the largest SMPs, and asks them to assess 20 features of Facebook on six relational affordances between users, features, audience and content. The data in this study were collected on Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) with participants from the US Correspondence analysis was employed to examine the relationship between affordances and the ties among affordances, features and outcomes. Findings Results of the study indicate that users perceive features differently, and employing features as the unit of analysis captures users' interactions effectively. The findings support the presence of user-oriented affordances, such as presentation flexibility, association and content association. These three affordances can be summarized in two higher-level ones: self-expression and connection (SEC) and persona-linked content (PLC). Our findings of the two dimensions, SEC and PLC, highlight the importance of targets and their connections in understanding social media interactions' dynamic nature. Practical implications By proposing to shift the focus from platforms to features, this study suggests that companies should focus on understanding the features they use for their users to interact with their brand, rather than merely ensuring that their company is omnipresent on all platforms. This study underlines the need to focus on features that will help managers influence interpersonal and user-brand communications and interactions on social media. Originality/value This research is the first to put features at the center of its investigation and quantitatively examine the relationship between social media features and affordances in a social media context. In all, this research provides a new unit of analysis that is more suitable for researchers to build a robust conceptual foundation for affordances. We believe that conceptualizing audience and content as outcomes, distinguishing it from features and creating connections between them as affordances is the unique aspect of our conceptualization.
Chapter
Zusammenfassung Wir bezeichnen den Prozess der organisatorischen Transformation durch den Einsatz digitaler Technologien zur radikalen Umgestaltung von Organisationen als digitale Transformation. Jedoch herrschen innerhalb und zwischen der Management-, Organisations- und Information-Systems-Literatur noch erhebliche Inkonsistenzen bezüglich der Merkmale der digitalen Transformation einer Organisation. Daher haben wir eine transdisziplinäre Recherche von 175 Artikeln zu digitaler Transformation durchgeführt. Als Ergebnis haben wir zwölf Denkschulen identifiziert, die das Phänomen der digitalen Transformation diskutieren. Wir zeigen, dass die digitale Transformation auf bestehenden und neuen Denkansätzen aufbaut, wie beispielsweise digitale Innovation und Ökosysteme.
Chapter
Grounded theory has been gaining ground in Information Systems as a research method in recent years. Grounded theory has been increasingly used and discussed in IS literature spanning the past decade. This development mirrors the establishment and wide adoption of qualitative research in information systems which has led to a diversity of approaches in qualitative analysis, among them grounded theory. The panel examines different applications of grounded theory in information systems, and addresses a number of issues that stem from the use of grounded theory in information systems research.
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A wide variety of indicators suggest that humans are destroying the earth at a rapid rate. Forests, air, water, human health, and endangered species are all in trouble. Overall, humans are creating economic growth by depreciating the capital in natural resources that allows for that growth. We argue that the lens of organizational behavior yields insights not otherwise visible to explain this behavior. We provide a multilevel analysis of the destructiveness of taken-for-granted belief and behavior. We consider (1) how human perception of environmental problems is affected by cognitive biases; (2) how individuals are influenced in these biases by the organizations of which they are a part; and (3) how institutions persist that guide our awareness of our connections to the environment.