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Business Information Systems

Place-making: A Phenomenological Theory of Technology Appropriation

Kai Riemer, University of Sydney

12th Sep 2012  10:00 am - Darlington Centre School Building, Meeting Room 11

The topic of this talk is the introduction of new technologies into organisational practices. While IS textbooks conceive of IS introduction largely as a decision process, a body of literature has emerged characterizing the phenomenon as a time-extended appropriationprocess, whereby users adapt and integrate a technology into their everyday practices. However, research in this field, typically aimed at explaining the variation in (unintended) outcomes, has struggled to grasp how exactly both the technology and the practice change during appropriation. We argue that appropriation research has been limited by certain commitments at the ontology level to a widely held dualist worldview. Against this background we develop a phenomenological theory of appropriation based on Martin Heidegger's analysis of equipment. On this view, technology goes from being an object with properties when inspected upon first encounter, to a specific means for the enterprise of the practice, captured in the notion of equipment. Equivalently, we can say that technology moves from the foreground as a thing to be evaluated to the practice background where it lends intelligibility to other entities and events. We show that this transformation occurs through a practice of actively performed place-making in which the technology is accommodated in the practice among existing equipment, practical logics and social identities. We illustrate our theory with a rich case study of social media appropriation, making methodological use of the novel feature that self-referential user conversations are captured within the technology, providing access to direct evidence of the appropriation phenomenon. The paper contributes a more nuanced sociomaterial account of the simultaneous transformation of technology and practices occurring in technology introduction.