What’s Under Construction Here? Social Action, Materiality, and Power in Constructivist Studies of Technology and Organizing

Academy of Management Annals, Vol. 4, pp. 1-51, 2010

59 Pages Posted: 12 Feb 2010 Last revised: 14 May 2010

See all articles by Paul M. Leonardi

Paul M. Leonardi

University of California, Santa Barbara

Stephen R. Barley

Stanford University - Department of Management Science & Engineering

Date Written: February 11, 2010

Abstract

Over the past two decades, organizational scholars have increasingly argued that technology’s affects on organizations are socially constructed. Constructivists who study implementation generally hold that organizational change emerges from an ongoing stream of social action in which people respond to a technology’s constraints and affordances, as well as to each other. Although most students of technology and organizing generally agree on the ontology of constructivism, there are considerable differences in what scholars mean when they say that a technology’s affects are socially constructed. We show that research on the social construction of implementation clusters into five coherent perspectives, which we call perception, interpretation, appropriation, enactment, and alignment. The perspectives differ with regard to social phenomena they study and the processes by which they claim that construction occurs. The perspectives also focus on different phases of the implementation process and operate at different levels of analysis. After elucidating each perspective, we argue that students of technology and organizing could more directly engage issues central to organizational theory if grappled with materiality and power, which they have heretofore downplayed in an attempt to counteract the field’s earlier tendency toward technological determinism.

Keywords: Materiality, Sociomateriality, Technological Change, Organizational Change, Social Construction, Structuration, Power

Suggested Citation

Leonardi, Paul M. and Barley, Stephen R., What’s Under Construction Here? Social Action, Materiality, and Power in Constructivist Studies of Technology and Organizing (February 11, 2010). Academy of Management Annals, Vol. 4, pp. 1-51, 2010 , Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1551370

Paul M. Leonardi (Contact Author)

University of California, Santa Barbara ( email )

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Santa Barbara, CA 93106
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.tmp.ucsb.edu/leonardi/

Stephen R. Barley

Stanford University - Department of Management Science & Engineering ( email )

473 Via Ortega
Stanford, CA 94305-9025
United States
(650) 723-0519 (Phone)
(650) 723-2826 (Fax)

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