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IT-adaptation as sensemaking: inventing new meaning for technology in organizations
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Informatics.
1999 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Noting how organizations today are increasingly dependent on IT for a broad range of organizational activities, the thesis starts from the observation that many IT-related endeavors nevertheless fail. In tracing part of the problem to the inability of many organizations to cope with changes in the surrounding material and social context, the emphasis is put on the processes by which IT-artifacts are adapted and re-adapted, after they have been put into daily use. Assuming human sensemaking as a good basis for coping with the changes, qualitative data from two organizations — a Swedish social services department and a software firm — provides an empirical context for assessing how sensemaking processes affect IT-adaptation.

Conceptually, the thesis draws on Karl Weick's thinking, introducing the "double interact" and the "response repertoire" as sensitizing concepts with which to understand the mechanisms generating adaptation of IT-artifacts. Methodologically, the interpretive case study is employed, using the "hermeneutic circle" as the guiding principle for the research process.

The thesis draws some specific implications concerning how IT-adaptation can be understood in organizations. The generic IT-adaptation process can be divided into two elementar}- phases, exploration and exploitation. During the exploration phase, several individual interpretations of a particular IT-artifact co-exist, occasioning ambiguity about its meaning in organizational daily activity. During the exploitation phase, the IT-artifact itself is in the background of matters of attention, providing organizational actors, who pursue individual goals and desires, the opportunity to exploit the shared and taken-for-granted meaning they see in the artifact. While the exploitation phase is important for organizational efficacy, there is nevertheless a risk that the meaning exploited becomes outdated by surrounding socio-material changes over time. Among other proposals, the thesis therefore suggests that triggering sensemaking processes can be important for meaningful IT-adaptation. In addition, it suggests the activity of searching for the interlacing areas of professional identity of actor groups, as a means to make IT-artifacts meaningful in organizing endeavors.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå universitet , 1999. , 64 p.
Research reports in informatics, ISSN 1401-4572 ; 99:01
Keyword [en]
IT-adaptation, sensemaking, information systems, ambiguity, identity, meaning, interpretive case study, email and conference systems, software support systems
National Category
Information Systems
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-65866ISBN: 91-7191-707-1OAI: diva2:605639
Public defence
1999-11-22, MIT-HUSET, MA121, Umeå universitet, Umeå, 13:00

[8] s., s. 1-64: sammanfattning, s. 65-168: 6 uppsatser

Available from: 2013-02-14 Created: 2013-02-12 Last updated: 2013-02-26Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Beyond the common sense of practice: A case for organizational informatics
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Beyond the common sense of practice: A case for organizational informatics
1997 (English)In: Scandinavian Journal of Information Systems, ISSN 0905-0167, Vol. 9, no 1, 47-56 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-33221 (URN)
Available from: 2010-04-19 Created: 2010-04-19 Last updated: 2013-02-14Bibliographically approved
2. Barriers to learning: on organizational defenses and vicious circles in technological adaptation
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Barriers to learning: on organizational defenses and vicious circles in technological adaptation
2000 (English)In: Accounting, Management and Information Technologies, ISSN 0959-8022, Vol. 10, no 1, 33-52 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

On the basis of an interpretive case study, the authors explore the learning implications of introducing First Class in a social services department. The investigated case illustrates how learning efforts easily result in ''vicious circles''; the more learning is sought after, the more solid are the barriers to learning. In this case, the existence of certain organizational virtues - the learning organization and the notion of the professional social worker - were observed to have negative learning implications. Paradoxically, at the espoused level, these two virtues can be understood as healthy signs, although their existence as only virtues makes them basically opposed to learning. The results of this study contribute to existing theory about discontinuity in technological adaptation.

Technological adaptation, Learning, Social services, Communication technology, Organizational defensive routines
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-5795 (URN)doi:10.1016/S0959-8022(99)00012-0 (DOI)
Available from: 2007-02-06 Created: 2007-02-06 Last updated: 2013-02-14Bibliographically approved

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