Understanding the roles of technology in improvising
Author(s)Fonstad, Nils Olaya
Sloan School of Management.
Wanda J. Orlikowski.
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(cont.) significantly during an improvisation) and emergent artifacts (i.e., artifacts that are created and adapted during an improvisation). In addition, I find that there are three general uses of artifacts in improvising: tool (the use of an artifact to build an outcome), component (the use of an artifact as part of an outcome), and product (the use of an artifact as an outcome). Finally, these uses tend to involve two aspects of artifacts: practical (the use of an artifact for its functional capabilities) and symbolic (the use of an artifact for its representational capabilities). Artifacts, particularly emergent artifacts, were an integral part of enacting structures (the use of emergent artifacts as structural referents), assessing continuously (the use of emergent artifacts as products of the improvisation to solicit feedback and examine the progress, or lack thereof, of the collaborative endeavor), creating resourcefully (the re-use of emergent artifacts as components of the final product), and adapting extemporaneously (the use of artifacts as tools to adapt the emerging output). My research addresses calls for IS researchers to theorize more specifically about the nature and influence of IT artifacts and offers a framework to think about technology not simply as a stable tool that is used for practical purposes, but also as an artifact that can be stable or emergent, it can be used as a product, component, or tool, and it is used for both practical and symbolic aspects.What are the roles of technology as groups of individuals innovate in work environments they describe as dynamic and unpredictable? In organizational studies, a growing number of researchers are using the framework of improvising to make sense of the processes of innovation and transformation in dynamic environments. The roles of technologies in improvising, however, have not been well articulated in this literature. My dissertation research addresses two general questions: What core activities constitute improvising? and What are the roles of technology in improvising? I ground my work in two practice-based theoretical frameworks, structuration theory (Giddens, 1984) and an extension of structuration theory, technologies-in-practice (Orlikowski, 2000). Drawing on a growing literature on improvising in organizations and accounts of improvising in African American quiltmaking, I develop a framework describing the activities that constitute improvising and the different kinds, roles, and aspects of technological artifacts in improvising. I then apply this framework to examine the findings of field research I conducted into the work practices of two groups: a team of chemists developing new formulas for personal care products, and a management team developing a funding pitch and prototype web service during the initial stages of their small Internet-based start-up business. I define improvising as a structured process of innovation that involves responding to changing situation(s) with resources at hand by creating a production and adapting it continuously. Overall, I find that two kinds of artifacts are significant to improvising: stable artifacts (i.e., artifacts that do not change
Thesis (Ph. D.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sloan School of Management, 2003.Page 366 blank.Includes bibliographical references (p. 355-365).
DepartmentSloan School of Management
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Sloan School of Management.