Enacting Media Use in Organizations

By Saetre, Alf Steinar; Sornes, Jan-Oddvar et al. | Journal of Information, Information Technology, and Organizations, Annual 2007 | Go to article overview

Enacting Media Use in Organizations


Saetre, Alf Steinar, Sornes, Jan-Oddvar, Browning, Larry D., Stephens, Keri K., Journal of Information, Information Technology, and Organizations


Introduction

Information and communication technologies (ICTs) have long interested both organizational researchers and practitioners. Researchers have developed various theoretical perspectives on technology and organizing, ranging from contingency theory (Burns & Stalker, 1961; Woodward, 1965) to the more recent structurational models (Barley, 1986; DeSanctis & Poole, 1994) and practice-lens approaches (Orlikowski, 2000). Studying ICTs in organizations is particularly timely today because "both technologies and organizations are undergoing dramatic changes in form and function" (Orlikowski, 2000, p. 404). All these changes afford us opportunities to study the process of enactment, since organizations and organizational members must try to make sense of their rapidly changing environments.

This paper aims to better explain, through the analysis of thick qualitative data, how ICT practices are enacted in an organizational context. The goal is to understand media use in organizations; the theories employed are a means to this end. Enactment is a dynamic, even at times chaotic, process. To create order around enactment research, "organizational researchers will have to generate a rich set of theoretical interpretations, from a diverse repertoire of enactments (actions, influences, statements and events) on the chaotic frontiers of management studies" (Orton, 2000, p. 232). We have rich qualitative data stemming from 67 in-depth interviews to help us do this.

Enactment has now been studied in myriad contexts: strategic management (Mir & Watson, 2000), organizational downsizing (McKinley, Zhao, & Rust, 2000), wage-setting in the construction industry (Kreiner, 1989), organizational learning (Oswick, Anthony, Keenoy, Mangham, & Grant, 2000), sensemaking (Weick, 1988; Weick, Sutcliffe, & Obstfeld, 2005), organizational redesign (Orton, 2000), organizational environments (Manning, 1982), entrepreneurial environments and entrepreneurship (A. R. Anderson, 2000), structural forms (E. Clark & Soulsby, 1999), corporate identity (Marziliano, 1998), organizing (Weick et al., 2005), the construction of self in cyberspace (Waskul & Douglass, 1997), the generative capability of firms (Prencipe, 2001), work and home environments (S. C. Clark, 2002), personal identities (Beyer & Hannah, 2002), cultures of entrapment (Weick & Sutcliffe, 2003), and client-centered conversations in psychotherapy (Wickman & Campbell, 2003), to name just some.

Despite all this research on enactment, few studies have tackled the important technology issues present in organizations today. This paper fills that gap by using Weick's (1979) framework of enactment to study ICT practices. People enact ICT usage via social action. That is, the way people interact with each other and with the technology itself is influenced by social processes--norms, culture, and expectations. Previous research has linked enactment with schema and cause maps. As social action unfolds, schema emerge (McKinley et al., 2000), and since every organizational member experiences social interactions in slightly different ways, individuals enact unique cause maps (Orton, 2000).

We believe that scripts prove more appropriate than cause maps when talking about practices such as ICT usage, since scripts guide behaviors, whereas both schema and cause maps only chart how elements are causally related. Scripts therefore go one step further than cause maps; not only do they map how elements are causally related but they also provide "recipes" (scripts) for behaviors, thus focusing our attention on the self in relation to action and outcomes. Therefore, we, like other scholars before (e.g., Ashforth & Fried, 1988; Barley, 1986; Gioia, 1986; Gioia & Poole, 1984), use scripts as a guiding concept rather than maps or schema.

Using scripts instead of causal maps also lets us link enactment to Langer's (1978, 1989) theory of mindfulness/mindlessness. …

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