e-Infrastructures: How Do We Know and Understand Them? Strategic Ethnography and the Biography of Artefacts
- 1.3k Downloads
In health research and services, and in many other domains, we note the emergence of large-scale information systems intended for long-term use with multiple users and uses. These e-infrastructures are becoming more widespread and pervasive and, by enabling effective sharing of information and coordination of activities between diverse, dispersed groups, are expected to transform knowledge-based work. Social scientists have sought to analyse the significance of these systems and the processes by which they are created. Much current attention has been drawn to the often-problematic experience of those attempting to establish them. By contrast, this paper is inspired by concerns about the theoretical and methodological weakness of many studies of technology and work organisation—particularly the dominance of relatively short-term, often single site studies of technology implementation. These weaknesses are particularly acute in relation to the analysis of infrastructural technologies. We explore the relevance to such analysis of recent developments in what we call the Biography of Artefacts (BoA) perspective—which emphasises the value of strategic ethnography: theoretically-informed, multi-site and longitudinal studies: We seek to draw insights here from a programme of empirical research into the long-term evolution of corporate e-infrastructures (reflected in current Enterprise Resource Planning systems) and review some new conceptual tools arising from recent research into e-Infrastructures (e-Is). These are particularly relevant to understanding the current and ongoing difficulties encountered in attempts to develop large-scale Health Infrastructures.
Key wordse-infrastructures Biography of artefacts (BoA) approach Strategic ethnography Enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems Health infrastructures
We acknowledge the support of the UK Economic and Social Research Council for various studies and especially Research Grant [Res 000 23 0466] The Biography and Evolution of Standardised Software Packages, on which this paper primarily draws. The research team was Robin Williams, Neil Pollock, Luciana D’Adderio and Robert Procter. We would particularly like to acknowledge valuable comments provided by Dr Mark Hartswood, University of Edinburgh, School of Informatics, and Dr Sampsa Hyysalo, University of Helsinki, College for Advanced Studies, as well as three anonymous CSCW referees.
- Al-Mashari, M. (2003). Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Systems: a research agenda. Industrial Management and Data Systems, 102(3), 165–170.Google Scholar
- Anderson, B. J. (2000). Where the rubber hits the road: Notes on the deployment problem in workplace studies. In P. Luff, J. Hindmarsh, & C. Heath (Eds.), Workplace studies: Recovering work practice and informing system design. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Anderson, S., Hardstone, G., Procter, R., & Williams, R. (2006). Down in the (Data)base(ment): Supporting configuration in organisational information systems. Chap. 9. In:Ackerman, M. S., Halverson, C. A., Erickson, T., & Kellogg, W. A. (Eds). Resources, co-evolution and artifacts: Theory in CSCW (Computer Supported Cooperative Work). Kluwer, pp. 221–254.Google Scholar
- Bessant, J. (1983). Management and manufacturing innovation; the case of information technology. In G. Winch (Ed.), Information technology in manufacturing processes (pp. 14–30). London: Rossendale.Google Scholar
- Bowker, G. C., & Star, S. L. (1999). Sorting things out: Classification and its consequences. MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
- Braudel, F. (1949). Méditerranée et le monde mediterranéen a l’époque de Philippe II Vol.1 In English translation (tr. Sian Reynolds 1972) as The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II, vol. I. London: Collins.Google Scholar
- Bunduchi, R., Williams, R., Graham, I., & Smart, A. (2006). XML based clinical data standardisation in the National Health Service Scotland. Informatics in Primary Care, 14(4), 227–234.Google Scholar
- Button, G. (1993). Technology in working order: Studies of work, interaction, and technology. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Callon, M., & Latour, B. (1981). Unscrewing the Big Leviathan: How actors macrostructure reality and how sociologists help them to do so. In K. D. Knorr-Cetina & A. V. Cicourel (Eds.), Advances in social theory and methodology: Toward an integration of micro- and macro-sociologies. Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
- Ciborra, C. U., Braa, K., Cordella, A., Dahlbom, B., Failla, A., Hanseth, O., et al. (2001). From control to drift: The dynamics of corporate information infrastructures. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Clark, P., & Staunton, N. (1989). Innovation in technology and organisation. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Clausen, C., & Williams, R. (Eds.) (1997), The social shaping of computer-aided production management and computer integrated manufacture, Vol. 5, Proceedings of International Conference, COST A4, ISBN 92 828 1569 2, European Commission DGXIII, Luxembourg.Google Scholar
- Dourish, P. (2001). Where the action is: The foundations of embodied interaction. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
- Edwards, P. N., Jackson, S. J., Bowker, G. C., & Knobel, C. P. (2007). Understanding infrastructure: Dynamics, tensions, and design. Ann Arbor: Deep Blue.Google Scholar
- Ellingsen, G., & Monteiro, E. (2003). A patchwork planet integration and cooperation in hospitals. Computer Supported Cooperative Work, 12(1), pp. 71–95. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1023/A:1022469522932.
- Ellingsen, G., & Monteiro, E. (2006) Seamless integration: standardisation across multiple settings. Computer Supported Cooperative Work, 15(5–6), 443–466.Google Scholar
- ERP Research Group (2006). ERP Systems and Related Issues Bibliography: 600 Articles’ (updated 5 May 2006), Victoria University Australia. Available online: (accessed 15 May 2007). (http://www.business.vu.edu.au/sap/Research.html#ERP_Systems_and_Related_Issues_Bibliogr).
- Esteves, J., & Pastor, J. (2001). Enterprise resource planning systems research: an annotated bibliography. Communications of AIS, 7(8), 1–52.Google Scholar
- Fleck, J. (1988). Innofusion or diffusation?: the nature of technological development in robotics. Edinburgh PICT Working Paper No. 4, Research Centre for Social Sciences, The University of Edinburgh: Edinburgh.Google Scholar
- Gerst, M. (2006). The socio-technical dynamics of ICT innovation: A social shaping analysis of portals. Unpublished PhD thesis. Research Centre for Social Sciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh.Google Scholar
- Graham, I., Lloyd, A., Slack, R., & Williams, R. (2003). Uptake of BPR, PRECEPT Working paper, Danish Technical University: Lyngby.Google Scholar
- Hanseth, O., & Braa, K. (1998). Technology as traitor: emergent SAP infrastructure in a global organization. In: Proceedings of the international Conference on Information Systems (Helsinki, Finland). International Conference on Information Systems. Association for Information Systems, Atlanta, GA, pp. 188–196.Google Scholar
- Hanseth, O., Jacucci, E., Grisot, M., & Aanestad, M. (2006). Reflexive standardization: side effects and complexity in standard-making. MISQ: Special Issue on Standardization, 30, 563–581.Google Scholar
- Hartswood, M., Procter, R., Slack, R., Voss, A., Büscher, M., Rouncefield, M., et al. (2002). Co-realisation: towards a principled synthesis of ethnomethodology and participatory design. Scandinavian Journal of Information Systems, 14(2), 9–30.Google Scholar
- Hepsø, V., Monteiro, E., & Rolland, K. H. (2009). Ecologies of e-Infrastructures. Journal of the Association for Information Systems, Special Issue on e-Infrastructure, 10(5) paper 5, 430–446. http://aisel.aisnet.org/jais/vol10/iss5/.
- Hutchins, E. (1995). Cognition in the wild. Cambridge: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
- Hughes, J. A, King, V., Rodden, T., & Andersen, H. (1994). Moving out of the control room: Ethnography in system design. Proceedings of the 1994 ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW 94), (pp. 429–438). Chapel Hill, North Carolina: Association of Computing Machinery.Google Scholar
- Hyysalo, S. (2004). Uses of innovation: Wristcare in the practices of engineers and elderly. Academic Dissertation, University of Helsinki, Department of Education, Helsinki.Google Scholar
- Hyysalo, S. (2010). Health technology development and use. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Johnson, C. W. (2010). Case studies in the failure of healthcare information systems, available online at http://www.dcs.gla.ac.uk/~johnson/papers/AHRQ/case_study.pdf.
- Johnson, C. W. (2009). Politics and patient safety don’t mix: Understanding the failure of large-scale software procurement for healthcare systems. In: P. Casely, & C. W. Johnson (Eds.). Proceedings, Fourth IET Systems Safety Conference. IET Conference Publications: London.Google Scholar
- Kallinikos, J. (2004a). Farewell to constructivism: Technology and context-embedded action. In C. Avgerou, C. Ciborra, & F. Land (Eds.), The social study of information and communication technology: Innovation, actors, and contexts. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Koch, C. (2003). ERP-software packages: Between mass production communities and intraorganisational political processes. In D. Preece & J. Laurila (Eds.), Technological change and organizational action (pp. 56–76). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Latour, B. (1987). Science in action. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
- Law, J. (2004). After method: Mess in social science research. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Luff, P., Hindmarsh, J., Heath, C., & Hinds, P. J. (Eds.). (2000). Workplace studies: Recovering work practice and informing system design. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- MacKenzie, D., & Wajcman, J. (Eds.). (1985). The social shaping of technology: How the refrigerator got its hum. Milton Keynes: Open University Press.Google Scholar
- Mabert, V., Soni, A., & Venkataramanan, M. (2001). Enterprise resource planning: common myths versus evolving reality. Business Horizons, May–June: 69–76.Google Scholar
- Martin, D., Hartswood, M., Slack, M., & Voss, A. (2006). Achieving dependability in the configuration, integration and testing of healthcare technologies. Computer Supported Cooperative Work, 15(5–6), 467–499.Google Scholar
- Martin, D., Procter, R., Mariani, J., & Rouncefield, M. (2007b). ‘Working the contract’ OZCHI 2007: Australian computer-human interaction conference. Adelaide, Australia, 29–30 November, 2007.Google Scholar
- Monteiro, E., & Hanseth, O. (1995). Social shaping of information infrastructure: On being specific about the technology. In: W. Orlikowski, G. Walsham, M. R. Jones, & J. I. DeGross (Eds.). Information technology and changes in organisational work (pp. 325–343). Chapman & Hall.Google Scholar
- National Audit Office (2008). The National Programme for IT in the NHS: Progress since 2006, National Audit Office Value for Money Report, Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General [HC 484-I Session 2007–2008: 16 May 2008] ISBN: 9780102954128.Google Scholar
- Peltu, M., Eason, K., & Clegg, C. (2008). How a Sociotechnical approach can help NPfIT deliver better NHS patient care, Bayswater Institute: London. Available online at: http://www.bayswaterinst.org/downloads/Sociotech%20Group%20NPfIT%20report%20May08.pdf.
- Pipek, V., & Wulf, V. (2009). Infrastructuring: toward an integrated perspective on the design and use of information technology. Journal of the Association for Information Systems, Special Issue on e-Infrastructure, 10(5) http://aisel.aisnet.org/jais/vol10/iss5/.
- Plowman, L, Rogers, Y., & Ramage, M. (1995). What are workplace studies for? In: H. Marmolin, Y. Sundblad, and K. Schmidt (Eds.) ECSCW ’95. Proceedings of the Fourth European Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work, 10–14 September 1995, Stockholm, Sweden, H. Marmolin, Y. Sundblad, and K. Schmidt (eds.), Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, pp. 309–324.Google Scholar
- Pollock, N., & Williams, R. (2009). Software and organisations: The biography of the enterprise-wide system or how SAP conquered the world? Routledge.Google Scholar
- Sahay, S., Monteiro, E., & Aanestad, M. (2009). Configurable politics and asymmetric integration: health e-Infrastructures in India. Journal of the Association for Information Systems, Special Issue on e-Infrastructure, 10(5) http://aisel.aisnet.org/jais/vol10/iss5/ article 3, pp. 399–414.
- Sørensen, K. H. (1996). ‘Learning technology, constructing culture: socio-technical change as social learning’, STS Working Paper, No 18/96. Centre for Technology and Society, Trondheim.Google Scholar
- Stewart, J., & Williams, R. (2005). The wrong trousers? Beyond the design fallacy: Social learning and the user, Chapter 10. In D. Howcroft & E. M. Trauth (Eds.), Handbook of critical information systems research: Theory and application (pp. 195–223). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
- Suchman, L. A. (1987). Plans and situation actions: The problem of human-machine communication. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Suchman, L. (2002). Located accountabilities in technology production. Scandinavian Journal of Information Systems, 14(2), 91–105.Google Scholar
- Tingling, P., & Parent, M. (2002). Mimetic isomorphism and technology evaluation: does imitation transcend judgement. Journal of the Association for Information Systems, 3(5), 113–43.Google Scholar
- Ure, J. R., Procter, N., Lin, Y., Hartswood, M., Anderson, S., Lloyd, S., et al. (2009). The development of data infrastructures for eHealth: a socio-technical perspective. Journal of the Association for Information Systems, Special Issue on e-Infrastructure, 10(5) http://aisel.aisnet.org/jais/vol10/iss5/ article 4, pp. 415–419.
- Voss, A. (2006) Corealisation: A radical respecification of the working division of labour in systems development. Unpublished PhD thesis, School of Informatics, The University of Edinburgh: Edinburgh.Google Scholar
- Walsham, G. (2001). Making a world of difference: IT in a global context. Chichester: Wiley.Google Scholar
- Webster, J. (1990). Office automation: The labour process and women’s work in Britain. Hemel Hempstead: Harvester Wheatsheaf.Google Scholar
- Webster, J. (1991). Advanced manufacturing technologies: Work organisation and social relations crystallised. In J. Law (Ed.), A sociology of monsters: Essays on power, technology, and domination (pp. 192–222). London: Routledge. Sociological review monograph, 38.Google Scholar
- Williams, R., & Steward, F. (1985). The role of the parties concerned in the introduction of new technology—case studies on the implementation of collective agreements on new technology in Britain. Dublin: European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions.Google Scholar
- Williams, R. (1997a). Universal solutions or local contingencies? Tensions and contradictions in the mutual shaping of technology and work organisation. In: I. McLoughlin, & D. Mason (Eds.). Innovation organizational change and technology (Chap. 8, pp. 170–185). London: International Thompson Business Press.Google Scholar
- Williams, R. (1997b). The social shaping of a failed technology: Mismatch and tension in the supply and use of computer-aided production management. In: C. Clausen, & Williams, R. (Eds.). The social shaping of computer-aided production Management and computer integrated manufacture, Vol. 5, ISBN 92 828 1569 2, COST A4, European Commission DGXIII, Luxembourg, pp. 109–130.Google Scholar
- Williams, R., Bunduchi, R., Graham, I., Pollock, N., Procter, R., & Voss, A. (2004). Understanding the evolution of standards: Alignment and reconfiguration in standards development and implementation arenas. Proceedings of the 4S/EASST Conference, Paris, 27–29 August 2004.Google Scholar
- Williams, R. A., Stewart, J. K., & Slack, R. (2005). Social learning in technological innovation: Experimenting with information and communication technologies. Edward Elgar.Google Scholar