Exploring Ideology in the Adoption of Socio-Technical Assemblages

Exploring Ideology in the Adoption of Socio-Technical Assemblages

David Edwards (University of Nottingham, Ningbo, China) and Keith Horton (Birmingham City University, Birmingham, UK)
Copyright: © 2016 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/IJSS.2016010103
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In this paper the authors explore ideological influences on the organizational adoption and development of the Managed Learning Environment (MLE), an enterprise level approach to information systems development in Higher Education, that was advocated by UK national agencies such as the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC). The authors present three detailed longitudinal case studies. To capture the ideological dimension of MLE we use the concept of Technology Action Framing. They find that the ideological dimension of the technology has a significant impact on organisational socio technical processes by shaping strong and often conflicting attitudes to the adoption of MLE. The findings contribute to better understanding of this pattern of socio technical adoption and development.
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Organisations are increasingly influenced by socio-technical assemblages involving standardised artefacts, often advocated by powerful commercial and political players in their respective arena of activity. The idea of organisational transformation is often embedded within and carried with these assemblages. This is certainly the case in Higher Education where pressure to modernise and ‘transform’ to adjust to market pressure have been growing for some years. As Williams and Pollock, (2012) point out: to understand social dynamics during the implementation process, the evolution of an IS needs to be studied in relation to these multiple influences.

Organisational transformation is often premised on a socio technical vision. Researchers have referred to the diffusion of technology Organising Visions between organisations (see e.g. Xavier de Vaujany, Carton, Dominguez & Vaast 2013; Wang, 2001; Firth, 2001; Currie, 2004) as a way of characterising this. For us this conceptualisation doesn’t capture the strong mobilising power of visions associated with drives for transformation. In our work we attempt to account for this by exploring the ideological aspects of socio technical assemblages and how these influence within organisational understanding and decision making over time. By ideology we refer to those systems of ideas, beliefs or ideals that influence the outlook of people upon their world.

Elliott & K. Kraemer (2001) have noted that within organisations actors often resort to utopian visions of technological potential to promote adoption.They draw attention to the ways in which utopian visions of what a technology might be able to ‘do’ and how it can be utilised shapes technology acceptance and diffusion. The broad environmental dynamic in which technology characterised as ‘revolutionary’ diffuses within and across organisations has been called a Computerisation Movement (Kling & Iacono, 1988). The theoretical perspective of Computerisation movements is built on earlier work on web models of computerisation that viewed computer technology developments as “complex social objects constrained by their context, infrastructure and history” (Kling & Scaachi, 1982, p.69). Computerisation Movements reflect specific ideological beliefs about the potential of technology to change social situations.

In order to interpret ideological influence we developed a theoretical framework that drew on socio technical literature on computerisation movements (e.g. Kling, 1994) and technology framing (e.g. Orlikowski & Gash, 1992). Using discourse in the higher education arena MLE is framed as an ideological artefact using Technology Action Framing. We then evaluated its influence on organisational documents and communications and research participant’s perceptions of MLE adoption and development. The study is based upon three in-depth longitudinal case studies of UK universities, and tracks the development and diffusion of specific information technologies over several years across these institutions.

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