The following chapter suggests a critical realistic framework, which aims at modeling sociotechnical change linked to end-users’ IT appropriation: the “archetypal approach.” The basic situations it includes (the “sociotechnical archetypes”), and the possible appropriative trajectories that combine them, together with three propositions linked to the model, are developed. They are illustrated by means of a case study describing the implementation of an e-learning system within a French university. Then, the article presents an instrumentation of the theoretical framework, based on a quantitative longitudinal approach: the Process Patterns Recognition (PPR) method. This one draws mainly on Doty, Glick and Huber (1993, 1994), who propose to evaluate the distance between organizational archetypes and empirical configurations by means of Euclidean distance calculus. The adaptation consists of evaluating the distance between appropriative trajectories (embodied by series of theoretically specified vectors) and empirical processes linked to the implementation of computerized tools in organizations. The PPR method is then applied to the same organizational setting as the one related to the case study. It validates the relevance of this type of a research strategy, which makes it possible to model sociotechnical dynamics related to end-users’ IT appropriations.
Introduction: Towards Quantitative Processual Approaches?
The study of the organization-technology relationship is hardly a new topic in the social sciences. From the first research forays into the sociotechnical school by Trist and Bamforth (1951) to Orlikowski's structurational model (1992, 2000), Lin and Cornford's contribution (2000) Callon and Latour's Actor Network Theory and Alter's (1986, 1995) innovation sociology in the French-speaking community, many theoretical frameworks have been developed in this perspective. With regard to Information System research, they draw either on static quantitative approaches, or on more longitudinal qualitative techniques (Choudrie abd Dwivedi, 2005; Pinsonneault and Kraemer, 1993). But in spite of Giddens' (1984) invitation not to “wield a methodological scalpel” towards quantitative approaches, Archer's (1995) open view on methodology or a broader discourse in most methodological research about the use of innovative quantitative techniques (assumed to be compatible with a more emergentist perspective, see for instance Thietart, 2001), quantitative processual research is extremely rare in IS (Kaplan and Duchon, 1988; Choudrie and Dwivedi, 2005). “Process measures” (Kaplan and Duchon, 1988) are thus lacking in most IS research. This has led us to a very challenging research question: