Tracing the Many Translations of a Web-Based IT Artefact

Tracing the Many Translations of a Web-Based IT Artefact

R. Naidoo (University of Pretoria, South Africa) and A. Leonard (University of Pretoria, South Africa)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-650-1.ch010
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This chapter adopts an interpretive, case based research strategy to discuss the centrality of meaning in implementing an Internet-based self-service technology. Actor-Network theory (ANT) is used to describe the complex evolution of a Web-based service at a healthcare insurance firm. Using processes of inscribing, translating and framing, this chapter explores the emergence of the technology from 1999 – 2005 using three technological frames, ‘channel of choice’, ‘dazzle the customer’, and ‘complementary channel’ as episodes of translation. ANT demonstrates that the Internet-based self-service technology at this particular healthcare context emerged out of many unplanned negotiations and mediations with both human and non human actors. Finally, this chapter argues that ANT’s socio-technical lens provides a richer understanding of the meaning of Internet-based self-service technology within a multi-channel context.
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Conceptual Framework

A conceptual framework can be defined as the structure, the scaffolding, or the frame of a study (Merriam, 1998). Some researchers refer to it as the lens through which we view the world (Walsham, 1995; Orlikowski and Baroudi, 1991) or the territory to be explored (Caroll and Swatman, 2000). As already alluded to, an SST implementation has both technical and social merits and it might be more appropriate to try to overcome the distinction between technical and social to improve our understanding of this phenomenon. Drawing on key concepts and assumptions from the social shaping of technology this chapter draws on the actor-network (ANT) approach to understand the heterogeneous and interrelated character of social and technological components (Callon and Law, 1982). ANT contends that both social and technical determinism are flawed and advocates a socio-technical account in which neither the social nor the technical are privileged. According to ANT, what appears to be social is partly technical and what appears to be technical is partly social (Law, 1992).

Key Terms in this Chapter

ICT: Information and communication technology

OPP: Obligatory passage point

SOA: Service-oriented architecture

HAS: Health savings account

eHIC: The e-commerce subsidiary of United Assurance Group

HIC: Health Insurance Company

IT: Information technology

ANT: Actor-network theory

ATG: Applied Technology Group

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