Academic journal article JITTA : Journal of Information Technology Theory and Application

Examining Virtual Organizations Using Fantasy Theme Analysis: A Study of Ict Policy Advisors' Discourse about Developing Countries

Academic journal article JITTA : Journal of Information Technology Theory and Application

Examining Virtual Organizations Using Fantasy Theme Analysis: A Study of Ict Policy Advisors' Discourse about Developing Countries

Article excerpt


Virtual organizations (also called virtual communities) are entities that use information technology to adapt to changing project, information, or marketplace demands. In this paper, we use fantasy theme analysis to identify dramas created in a virtual community or organization composed of individuals and organizations involved in giving policy-making advice to developing countries. We extend a particular kind of dramatism (fantasy theme analysis) into the realm of policy makers who create and enact dramas in their virtual communities. Fantasy theme analysis as envisioned by Bormann (1972, 1980, 1982, and 1983) is a departure from other types of dramatism in that it does not rely on the costumes, props, and physical settings to identify dramas. Our analysis found that the heroes were not the benefactors who donated money for the information technology, nor the adopters of the technology, nor even the practitioners who facilitated the implementation of information and communications technology (ICTs). Rather, the hero, surprisingly, turned out to be the ICT policy researchers. These are the people who analyze, compare and debate ICT policies, and how best to measure ICT impacts, in a free exchange within their virtual community. In our analysis of the virtual community's exchanges, the villain emerged as people within developing countries who suppressed or warped the use of ICTs. The group does not equate villainy with government, but equates it more closely with ruling authorities who pervert the use of ICTs who want to hinder their introduction. We conclude that the script created by a virtual organization via an Internet forum discussion is usefully examined taking a fantasy theme analysis approach, and that the resulting analysis is useful in helping policy makers identify the heroes, villains, plots and subplots of their policy discussions in their virtual community. We recommend three actions: 1) for ICT researchers we would urge them to recognize the dramas they and their colleagues are creating through their group interactions, 2) for policy advisors we encourage them to reflect on the power they possess to participate in ongoing discussions on a positive, symbolic and creative level, and 3) for researchers we recommend taking up the challenge of examining virtual communities by developing research methods that can capture the full panoply of interactions not readily available through traditional approaches. Fantasy theme analysis is one such method.


Many researchers are exploring the recent phenomenon of virtual organizations, teams, and communities. Some of their work focuses on whether analytical approaches used to understand traditional organizations are still appropriate for deciphering those communities that only exist virtually.

In this paper, we also face that question. Specifically, we recognize that many researchers have demonstrated the effectiveness of the theatre metaphor to help investigate, illustrate, and facilitate improvement in an organization or organizational members. decision making.

Most notably, theatre metaphors are demonstrably useful in analyzing brick and mortar firms that have physical manifestations. One example is a study that uses the activities related to mounting a theatre production to help better prepare an organization for IT disaster recovery (Kendall, Kendall, and Lee 2005). Theatre metaphors, or alternatively film metaphors are useful in observing, studying, and deriving meaning from variables of office layout and design; lighting in office and public areas; clothing of organizational members; and physical props such as desks, computers, software, and other types of information processing equipment (Kendall and Kendall 1981 and 1984).

We examine whether dramatism as a methodology is still useful in interpreting the social convergence created by virtual organizations in their online exchanges. Virtual enterprises use networks of computers and communication technology to bring people with specific skills or interests together electronically to work on projects that are not physically located in the same place. …

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