Structure Theory and Government IT

Structure Theory and Government IT

J. Ramon Gil-Garcia (Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas, Mexico) and Shahidul Hassan (University at Albany, SUNY, USA)
Copyright: © 2008 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-857-4.ch035
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The relationship between information technologies (IT) and organizational (structural) change has been a topic of interest for public administration and policy scholars for a long time (Dawes, Gregg, & Agouris, 2004; Fountain, 2001; Garson, 2004; Heeks, 1999; Heintze & Bretschneider, 2000; Kling & Lamb, 2000; Kling & Schacchi, 1982; Kraemer & King, 2003; Kraemer, King, Dunkle, & Lane, 1989; Rocheleau, 2000). Initially, most studies were somewhat deterministic in nature, arguing that either IT had the power to transform organizational structures, or that organizational and institutional factors largely determined the characteristics and effects of IT. Current research in information systems (W. Orlikowski, 2000; W. J. Orlikowski, 1992; W. J. Orlikowski & Robey, 1991), organizational studies (Barley, 1990; De- Sanctis & Poole, 1994), and public administration and policy (Fountain, 2001), however, indicate that the relationships between IT and organizational structures are not so simple. In fact, they are recursive, complex, and somewhat unpredictable. Employing what has been called the ensemble view of technology (W. J. Orlikowski & Iacono, 2001), these studies argue that research on IT in organizations should focus not only on the technological artifacts themselves, but also on the social relationships around their adoption, development, and use. Thus, they use, and encourage others to use, theoretical approaches that call attention to the social and complex nature of IT in organizations. Structuration theory (Giddens, 1984) is one such theoretical approach that has proved to be useful in studying the dynamic relationship between IT and organizational structure.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Technologies in Practice: A technology in practice is the specific enactment of an information technology by a certain social group. Despite certain features of a technological artifact, individuals can perceive it and use it very differently (see W. Orlikowski, 2000).

Spirit of Technology: The spirit of technology is the overall intention of use for which a technological artifact was created (see DeSanctis & Poole, 1994).

Structuration Theory: Originally developed by Anthony Giddens, structuration theory is an attempt to integrate micro and macro approaches to the study of society. Its basic premise is that individual actions are constrained by social structures, but, at the same time, these actions affect or constitute social structures.

Social Structure: Social structure is the abstract set of rules that individuals use in their daily lives. They do not exist in reality, but are instantiated in human actions.

Duality of Technology: Following the logic of duality of structure, duality of technology argues that actors use information technologies to constitute structures, but at the same time, information technologies become part of the structures constraining individual actions (see W. J. Orlikowski, 1992).

Radical Change: Radical change refers to change that occurs relatively fast and modifies the essence of social structures or organizational practices. Specifically, this type of change affects the resources, norms, and interpretive schemes of groups and individuals.

Duality of Structure: Duality of structure refers to the fact that individual behavior is constrained by existing social structures, but at the same time, this behavior constitutes social structures by reifying or challenging the current status (see Giddens, 1984).

Change Episode: This is a period with a defined beginning and end in which significant change occurs. This is normally produced by a time-space edge in which two different societies or groups have intensive interaction for a relatively short period of time and, as a consequence, their facilities, norms, and interpretive schemes are transformed.

Incremental Change: Incremental change refers to change that occurs slowly and without necessarily modifying the essence of social structures or organizational practices.

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