Organization Behavior and Organization Theory

Organization Behavior and Organization Theory

Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 36
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-3003-1.ch007
OnDemand PDF Download:
$30.00
List Price: $37.50

Abstract

In this chapter, the authors attempt to find a middle ground between optimism and pessimism by approaching organization theory and organization behavior empirically, first looking at the alleged effects of information technology on organization structure and then on behavior. After investigating some of the key questions that relate information technology to organization theory and behavior, the chapter expounds on the role of IT on both organizational theory and behavior in light of the theoretical themes of the book, specifically technological determinism, reinforcement theory, sociotechnical theory, and systems theory.
Chapter Preview
Top

Introduction

Optimism has abounded in the discussion of the relationship of information technology to organization theory and organization behavior. Vannevar Bush, science advisor to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was one of the early utopians. His 1945 Atlantic Monthly article, “As We May Think,” envisioned a desk-sized “memex” which would give access to vast archives of books. In the 1960s, Marshall McLuhan (1964) popularized computer technology and telecommunications as forces, which were creating a “global village” uniting everyone, everywhere, to everything. By 1980, when Alvin Toffler wrote The Third Wave about how telecommunications was creating an “infosphere,” the utopian vision of computing as a democratizing and empowering force was well established. The vision of a “democratic information society” or “electronic democracy” has since been set forth for three decades by many other writers.

Matching democratic theses about the role of information technology has been critical theory. This perspective could be traced back to fears about how totalitarian societies might consolidate their power through technology, as in George Orwell’s famous novel, 1984. More recently, Manuel Castells (1996, 1997, 1998) has presented a grand theory, backed by an enormous diversity of historical and empirical research. He wrote, “The rise of informationalism in this end of millenium is intertwined with rising inequality and social exclusion throughout the world” (Castells, 1998, p. 70). International inequalities grow, particularly at the extremes, and groups are systematically denied the resources for meaningful survival of their cultural identity. “Black holes of information capitalism” appear, from which there is no empirically evident means to escape poverty and de-identification. Castell's theory is not far from those of Marxist and critical thinkers collected in McChesney, Wood, and Foster (1998), where the argument is made that the contradictions of capitalism are revealed in the growing tension between the democratic potential of info-tech and economic demands for profit, which ultimately override this potential.

In this chapter we attempt to find a middle ground between optimism and pessimism by approaching organization theory and organization behavior empirically, first looking at the alleged effects of information technology on organization structure and then on behavior. Does IT really flatten organization structures by shrinking middle management? Does IT deterritorialize organizations through remote work? Is its long-run tendency centralizing or decentralizing? And perhaps most important, does IT tend to reinforce or erode existing organizational power structures? On terms of organization behavior, does IT intensify social networking and thus build social capital? Does IT really improve managerial decision-making? In terms of organizational change, does IT promote the diffusion of innovation? Is IT linked to organizational evolution toward the consolidation of control? After investigating these key questions which relate information technology to organization theory and organization behavior, the summary to this chapter relates the answers to these questions to the four theories which have been a theme to this book: technological determinism, reinforcement theory, sociotechnical theory, and systems theory.

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book:
Reset