Using Technology and Constituting Structures: A Practice Lens for Studying Technology in Organizations

  • Wanda J. Orlikowski

Abstract

As both technologies and organizations undergo dramatic changes in form and function, organizational researchers are increasingly turning to concepts of innovation, emergence, and improvisation to help explain the new ways of organizing and using technology evident in practice. With a similar intent, I propose an extension to the structurational perspective on technology that develops a practice lens to examine how people, as they interact with a technology in their ongoing practices, enact structures that shape their emergent and situated use of that technology. Viewing the use of technology as a process of enactment enables a deeper understanding of the constitutive role of social practices in the use and change of technologies in the workplace. After developing this lens, I offer an example of its use in research, and then suggest some implications for the study of technology in organizations.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Akrich M (1992) The de-scription of technical artifacts. In Bijker WE, Law J (eds.) Shaping Technology/Building Society: Studies in Sociotechnical Change. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, pp. 205–224.Google Scholar
  2. Barley SR (1986) Technology as an occasion for structuring: Evidence from observation of CT scanners and the social order of radiology departments. Administrative Science Quarterly 31: 78–108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Barley SR (1988) Technology, power, and the social organization of work. Research in the Sociology of Organizations 6: 33–80.Google Scholar
  4. Barley SR (1990) The alignment of technology and structure through roles and networks. Administrative Science Quarterly 35: 61–103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Barrett FJ (1998) Creativity and improvisation in jazz and organizations: Implications for organizational learning. Organization Science 9(5): 605–622.Google Scholar
  6. Bazerman C (1994) Systems of genres and the enactment of social intentions. In Freedman A, Medway P (eds.) Genre and the New Rhetoric. Taylor & Francis, London, pp. 79–101.Google Scholar
  7. Berners-Lee T (1996) Private communication (May 17).Google Scholar
  8. Bijker WE (1987) The social construction of bakelite: Toward a theory of invention. In Bijker WE, Hughes TP, Pinch T (eds.) The Social Construction of Technological Systems. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, pp. 159–187.Google Scholar
  9. Bijker WE (1995) Of Bicycles, Bakelites, and Bulbs: Toward a Theory of Sociotechnical Change. MIT Press, Cambridge MA.Google Scholar
  10. Bijker WE, Hughes TP, Pinch T (eds.) (1987) The Social Construction of Technological Systems. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.Google Scholar
  11. Bijker WE, Law J (eds.) (1992) Shaping Technology/Building Society: Studies in Sociotechnical Change. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.Google Scholar
  12. Bourdieu P (1977) Outline of a Theory of Practice. Cambridge University Press, New York.Google Scholar
  13. Braverman H (1974) Labor and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century. Monthly Review Press, New York.Google Scholar
  14. Brown JS, Duguid P (1991) Organizational learning and communities of practice: Toward a unified view of working, learning and innovation. Organization Science 2: 40–57.Google Scholar
  15. Brown S, Eisenhardt KM (1997) The art of continuous change: Linking complexity theory and time-paced evolution in relentlessly shifting organizations. Administrative Science Quarterly 42: 1–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Brynjolfsson E (1993) The productivity paradox of information technology: Review and assessment. Communications of the ACM 37: 12.Google Scholar
  17. Buchanan DA, Boddy D (1983) Organizations in the Computer Age: Technological Imperatives and Strategic Choice. Gower, Hants, UK.Google Scholar
  18. Burkhardt ME, Brass DJ (1990) Changing patterns or patterns of change: The effects of a change in technology on social network power and structure. Administrative Science Quarterly 35: 104–127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Button G (ed.) (1993) Technology in Working Order: Studies in Work, Interaction, and Technology. Routledge, London.Google Scholar
  20. Carter NM (1984) Computerization as a predominate technology: Its influence on the structure of newspaper organizations. Academy of Management Journal 27: 247–270.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Child J (1972) Organizational structure, environment and performance: The role of strategic choice. Sociology 6: 1–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Chalstrom B (1993) Enterprise computing. InfoWorld, November 1, p. 68.Google Scholar
  23. Ciborra CU (1993) Teams, Markets, and Systems: Business Innovation and Information Technology. Cambridge University Press, New York.Google Scholar
  24. Ciborra CU (1996) Improvisation and information technology in organizations. Proceedings of the 17th International Conference on Information Systems, Cleveland, OH, December, pp. 369–380.Google Scholar
  25. Ciborra CU, Lanzara GF (1991) Designing networks in action: Formative contexts and post-modern systems development. In Clarke R, Cameron J (eds.) Managing Information Technology’s Organisational Impact. Elsevier Science Publishers, Amsterdam, Holland, pp. 265–279.Google Scholar
  26. Clement A (1993) Looking for the designers: Transforming the ‘invisible’ infrastructure of computerized office work. AI & Society 7: 323–344.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Cook SDN, Brown JS (1996) Bridging Epistemologies: The Generative Dance Between Organizational Knowledge and Organizational Knowing. Unpublished manuscript.Google Scholar
  28. Daft RL, Lengel RH (1986) Organizational information requirements, media richness and structural design. Management Science 32: 554–571.Google Scholar
  29. Davis LE, Taylor JC (1986) Technology, organization and job structure. In Dubin R (ed.) Handbook of Work, Organization, and Society. Rand McNally, Chicago, pp. 379–419.Google Scholar
  30. DeJean D, DeJean SB (1991) Lotus Notes at Work. Lotus Books, New York.Google Scholar
  31. DeSanctis G, Poole MS (1994) Capturing the complexity in advanced technology use: Adaptive structuration theory. Organization Science 5(2): 121–147.Google Scholar
  32. Edwards R (1979) Contested Terrain: The Transformation of the Workplace in the Twentieth Century. Basic Books, New York.Google Scholar
  33. Galbraith JR (1977) Organization Design. Addison-Wesley, Reading, MA.Google Scholar
  34. Gasser L (1986) The integration of computing and routine work. ACM Transactions on Office Information Systems 4(3): 205–225.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Giddens A (1979) Central Problems in Social Theory: Action, Structure, and Contradiction in Social Analysis. University of California Press, Berkeley.Google Scholar
  36. Giddens A (1981) Agency, institution, and time-space analysis. In Knorr-Cetina K, Cicourel AV (eds.) Advances in Social Theory and Methodology. Routledge & Kegan Paul, Boston, pp. 161–174.Google Scholar
  37. Giddens A (1984) The Constitution of Society: Outline of the Theory of Structure. University of California Press, Berkeley.Google Scholar
  38. Giddens A (1989) A reply to my critics. In Held D, Thompson JB (eds.) Social Theory of Modern Societies: Anthony Giddens and His Critics. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 249–301.Google Scholar
  39. Giddens A (1991) Modernity and Self-Identity. Stanford University Press, Stanford, CA.Google Scholar
  40. Giddens A (1993) New Rules of Sociological Method, 2nd ed. Stanford University Press, Stanford, CA.Google Scholar
  41. Greif I (ed.) (1988) Computer Supported Cooperative Work. Morgan Kaufmann, New York.Google Scholar
  42. Grint K, Woolgar S (1992) Computers, guns, and roses: What’s social about being shot? Science, Technology, and Human Values 17(3): 366–380.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Grint K, Woolgar S (1995) On some failures of nerve in constructivist and feminist analyses of technology. Science, Technology, and Human Values 20(3): 286–310.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Grudin J (1989) Why groupware applications fail: Problems in design and evaluation. Office: Technology and People 4(3): 245–264.Google Scholar
  45. Hatch MJ (1998) Jazz as a metaphor for organizing in the 21st Century. Organization Science 9(5): 556–568.Google Scholar
  46. Hedberg B, Dahlgrenm G, Hansson J, Olve NG (1997) Virtual Organizations and Beyond. John Wiley & Sons, New York.Google Scholar
  47. Hutchins E (1991) Organizing work by adaptation. Organization Science 2(1): 14–39.Google Scholar
  48. Hutchins E (1995) Cognition in the Wild. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.Google Scholar
  49. Iacono S, Kling R (in press) Computerization movements: The rise of the Internet and distant forms of work. In Yates J, Van Maanen J (eds.) IT and Organizational Transformation: History, Rhetoric, and Practice. Sage Publications, Newbury Park, CA.Google Scholar
  50. Kent T (1993) Paralogic Rhetoric: A Theory of Communicative Interaction. Associated University Presses, Cranbury, NJ.Google Scholar
  51. Kling R (1980) Social analyses of computing: Theoretical perspectives in recent empirical research. Computing Surveys 12(1): 61–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Kling R (1991) Computerization and social transformations. Science, Technology, and Human Values 16: 342–367.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Kling R (1992) Audiences, narratives, and human values in social studies of technology. Science, Technology, and Human Values 17(3): 349–365.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Kraut R, Koch S, Dumais S (1988) Computerization, productivity, and quality of employment. Communications of the ACM 32(2): 220–238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Lant T (1999) A situated learning perspective on the emergence of knowledge and identity in cognitive communities. In Advances in Management Cognition and Organizational Information Processing, JAI Press, 6: 171–194.Google Scholar
  56. Latour B (1992) Where are the missing masses? The sociology of a few mundane artifacts. In Bijker WE, Law J (eds.) Shaping Technology/Building Society: Studies in Sociotechnical Change. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, pp. 225–258.Google Scholar
  57. Lave J (1988) Cognition in Practice. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  58. Mackay WE (1988) Diversity in the use of electronic mail. ACM Transactions on Office Information Systems 6(4): 380–397.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. MacKenzie D, Wajcman J (eds.) (1985) The Social Shaping of Technology. Open University Press, Milton Keynes, UK.Google Scholar
  60. Malone TW, Yates J, Benjamin R (1987) Electronic markets and electronic hierarchies. Communications of the ACM, pp. 484–497.Google Scholar
  61. Malone TW, Lai KY, Fry C (1992) Experiments with OVAL: A radically tailorable tool for cooperative work. Proceedings of the Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work, Toronto, Canada: ACM/SIGCHI & SIGOIS, pp. 289–297.Google Scholar
  62. Markus ML (1994) Electronic mail as the medium of managerial choice. Organization Science 5(4): 502–527.Google Scholar
  63. Marx L, Smith MR (eds.) (1994) Does Technology Drive History? MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.Google Scholar
  64. Noble D (1984) Forces of Production: A Social History of Industrial Automation. Knopf, New York.Google Scholar
  65. Norman DA (1993) Things That Make Us Smart: Defending Human Attributes in the Age of the Machine. Addison-Wesley, Reading, MA.Google Scholar
  66. Orlikowski WJ (1992) The duality of technology: Rethinking the concept of technology in organizations. Organization Science 3(3): 398–427.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Orlikowski WJ (1996) Improvising organizational transformation over time: A situated change perspective. Information Systems Research 7(1): 63–92.Google Scholar
  68. Orlikowski WJ, Gash DC (1994) Technological frames: Making sense of information technology in organizations. ACM Transactions on Information Systems 2(2): 174–207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Orlikowski WJ, Robey D (1991) Information technology and the structuring of organizations. Information Systems Research 2(2): 143–169.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Orlikowski WJ, Yates J, Okamura K, Fujimoto M (1995) Shaping electronic communication: The metastructuring of technology in use. Organization Science 6(4): 423–444.Google Scholar
  71. Orr J (1996) Talking About Machines: An Ethnography of a Modern Job. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY.Google Scholar
  72. Perrolle JA (1986) Intellectual assembly lines: The rationalization of managerial, professional, and technical work. Computers and Social Sciences 2: 111–121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Perrow C (1983) The organizational context of human factors engineering. Administrative Science Quarterly 28: 521–541.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Pinch TJ, Bijker WE (1984) The social construction of facts and artefacts: Or how the sociology of science and the sociology of technology might benefit each other. Social Studies of Science 14: 399–441.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Poole MS, DeSanctis G (1990) Understanding the use of group decision support systems: The theory of adaptive structuration. In Fulk J, Steinfield CW (eds.) Organizations and Communication Technology. Sage Publications, Newbury Park, CA, pp. 173–193.Google Scholar
  76. Poole MS, DeSanctis G (1992) Microlevel structuration in computer-supported group decision making. Human Communication Research 19(1): 5–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Poole MS, Jackson M, Kirsch L, DeSanctis G (1998) Alignment of system and structure in the implementation of group decision support systems. In Academy of Management Proceedings, San Diego, CA: C1–C7.Google Scholar
  78. Prasad P (1993) Symbolic processes in the implementation of technological change: A symbolic interactionist study of work computerization. Academy of Management Journal 36: 1400–1429.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Powell W (1987) Explaining technological change. American Journal of Sociology 93: 185–197.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Rice RE, Rogers EM (1980) Reinvention in the innovation process. Knowledge 1(4): 499–514.Google Scholar
  81. Rice RE, Aydin C (1991) Attitudes toward new organizational technology: Network proximity as a mechanism for social information processing. Administrative Science Quarterly 36: 219–244.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Roberts KH, Grabowski M (1995) Organizations, technology, and structuring. In Clegg SR, Hardy C, Nord WR (eds.) Handbook of Organization Studies. Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, CA, pp. 409–423.Google Scholar
  83. Saetnan AR (1991) Rigid technologies and technological flexibility: The anatomy of a failed hospital innovation. Science, Technology, and Human Values 16(4): 419–447.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Schryer CF (1993) Records as genres. Written Communication 10: 200–234.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Scarbrough H, Corbett JM (1992) Technology and Organization: Power, Meaning, and Design. Routledge, London.Google Scholar
  86. Scott WR (1990) Technology and structure: An organizational level perspective. In Goodman PS, Sproull LS (eds.) Associates, Technology and Organizations. Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, pp. 109–143.Google Scholar
  87. Sewell WH Jr (1992) A theory of structure: Duality, agency, and transformation. American Journal of Sociology 98(1): 1–29.MathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Shaiken H (1985) Work transformed: Automation and Labor in the Computer Age. Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York.Google Scholar
  89. Sproull LS, Goodman PS (1990) Technology and organizations: Integration and opportunities. In Goodman PS, Sproull LS (eds.) Associates, Technology and Organizations. Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, pp. 254–265.Google Scholar
  90. Suchman LA (1987) Plans and Situated Actions: The Problem of Human Machine Communication. University of Cambridge Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  91. Suchman LA (1996) Supporting articulation work. In Kling R (ed.) Computerization and Controversy, 2nd ed. Academic Press, San Diego, pp. 407–423.Google Scholar
  92. Taylor C (1993) To follow a rule. In Calhoun C, LiPuma E, Postone M (eds.) Bourdieu: Critical Perspectives. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, pp. 45–60.Google Scholar
  93. Tenkasi RV, Boland RJ (1993) Locating meaning making in organizational learning: The narrative basis of cognition. Research in Organizational Change and Development 7: 77–103.Google Scholar
  94. Tushman ML, Anderson PC, O’Reilly C (1997) Technology cycles, innovation streams, and ambidextrous organizations: Organizational renewal through innovation streams and strategic change. In Tushman ML, Anderson PC (eds.) Managing Strategic Innovation and Change. Oxford University Press, New York, pp. 3–23.Google Scholar
  95. Tyre MJ, Orlikowski WJ (1994) Windows of opportunity: Temporal patterns of technological adaptation in organizations. Organization Science 5(1): 98–118.Google Scholar
  96. von Hippel E (1988) The Sources of Innovation. Oxford University Press, New York.Google Scholar
  97. Walsham G (1993) Interpreting Information Systems in Organizations. John Wiley, New York.Google Scholar
  98. Walsham G, Han CK (1991) Structuration theory and information systems research. Journal of Applied Systems Analysis 17: 77–85.Google Scholar
  99. Weick K (1979) The Social Psychology of Organizing. Addison-Wesley, Reading, MA.Google Scholar
  100. Weick K (1990) Technology as equivoque. In Goodman PS, Sproull LS (eds.) Associates, Technology and Organizations. Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, pp. 1–44.Google Scholar
  101. Weick K (1995) Sensemaking in Organizations. Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, CA.Google Scholar
  102. Whittington R (1992) Putting Giddens into action: Social systems and managerial agency. Journal of Management Studies 29(6): 693–712.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  103. Winner L (1986) The Whale and the Reactor: A Search for Limits in an Age of High Technology. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.Google Scholar
  104. Woodward J (1965) Industrial Organization: Theory and Practice. Oxford University Press, London.Google Scholar
  105. Woolgar S (1991) The turn to technology in social studies of science. Science, Technology, and Human Values 16(1): 20–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  106. Woolgar S (1996) Technologies as cultural artifacts. In Dutton W (ed.) Information and Communication Technologies: Visions and Realities. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 87–102.Google Scholar
  107. Woolgar S, Grint K (1991) Computers and the transformation of social analysis. Science, Technology, and Human Values 16(3): 368–378.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  108. Yates J, Orlikowski WJ, Okamura K (1999) Explicit and implicit structuring of genres: Electronic communication in a Japanese R&D organization. Organization Science 10(1): 83–103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  109. Zuboff S (1988) In the Age of the Smart Machine. Basic Books, New York.Google Scholar
  110. Zucker LG (1977) The role of institutionalization in cultural persistence. American Sociological Review 42: 726–743.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London Limited 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wanda J. Orlikowski

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations