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Technology Enactment

Guy M. Massamba


Research on the transforming power of technology has pointed to structural change and the range of change pursued or intended by agents within organizations (Garson, 2003; West, 2004; Boudreau and Robey, 2005). Some scholars have noted the correlation between structural change and the evolution of technology, going beyond the notion that incorporating technology in organizations is enough to cause structural change. For instance, Bernard and Jones (1996, p. 1041) state that "changes in technology may be important for explaining the change in the dispersion of labor productivity over time." Moreover, technological change has caused change in the set of labor skills, contributing to the development of labor force. Bauer and Bender (2004, p. 210) note that "technological change might increase job creation for skilled workers and professionals and engineers if compared to non-qualified workers and increase relative job destruction for the latter." Labor is thus introduced as a dimension joining technology and institutional parameters in a triangular relationship, reinforcing the notion that technological integration is dependent upon institutional objectives comprising labor skill development, structural capacity building, and institutional behavior. This construct leans on the technology enactment framework developed by Fountain (2006) with emphasis on such requirements as knowledge and skill in the structuring of networked systems.


The Concept


The framework suggests systemic validation of technological incorporation inasmuch as a successful technological integration with organizational development is the product of a comprehensive agency comprising both institutional action and actor's knowledge and skills. The ensuing development takes place under conditions determined, among others, by policy making, cultural and behavioral dimensions. A similar perspective was established by Werle (1998, p. 3), "linking the meso level and micro level of analysis because it treats institutions and actors as equally important in the shaping of social processes and therefore also technology as an element of these processes." Rather than examining the relationship between technology and institutional development from the standpoint of the impact of technology on institutions, the technology enactment approach considers organizational structure characterized as operational relationships among actors, and institutional configuration as determinant features that determine the use of technology. The implementation of technology policies depends on these features.


Behavioral and Systemic Components


Information technology and technological change produce interconnected dynamics reflected in, and interacting with, the intricacies of institutional development. This is a theoretical posture that supports an "understanding of bureaucratic politics amid network formation and technological change" (Fountain, 2001, p. 83). It suggests a direction that is other than the linear interpretation dwelling on the causal bearing of unmediated operations of technology in institutions. It supports the effort to decipher the extent to which the behavior of participating actors exerts some weight on the design of the integration of information technology in institutions. The delineation, perception, and use of information technology in institutions are marked by cognitive aspects. This operational process cannot be fully grasped if one fails to account for such important variables as cultural environment, social and economic interests, which imply the pursuit of objectives and intents of actors. As cognitive actors, participants aimfully and eagerly implement technology policies.


The Underlying Thrust


The implementation of technology policies constitutes a process that translates development expectations into operational mechanisms for institutional transformation. It reflects a judgment by policy makers to justify and support the adoption of such aspects of technology as information technology. As rational actors, policy makers and technology users project and foresee ensuing accomplishments. Technology is incorporated in institutional development because it constitutes a set of resources and capabilities needed to overcome and solve collective problems. By using the concept of expectation, Borup and al. (2006, p. 286) see it as an important projecting factor "in mobilizing resources both at the macro level, for example in national policy through regulation and research patronage, and at the meso level of sectors in national policy and innovation networks, and the micro-level within engineering and research groups." Projections, as significant of effort to envision outcomes, can hardly fall under the premise of deterministic reasoning.



The causality and deterministic tenets may assert a relationship of primacy, but they cannot be relied upon to fathom the foundational phenomena that constitute the underlying factors for technological options and policies by institutions. These are strategic orientations whose outcomes are defined and worked out through the coordination and negotiations between actors whose actions are regulated in networked formations while influencing institutional complex systems. The process takes place as an "interplay of action and structure" (Fountain, 2001, p. 94), being characterized from an institutional perspective as an established pattern of mutual influence between individuals and institutions (Peters, 2019).

Bauer, T. K. & Bender, S. (2004). Technological Change, Organizational Change, and Job Turnover. Labour Economics, 11 (3), 265-291

Bernard, A. B. & Jones, C. I. (1996). Technology and Convergence. The Economic Journal, Volume 106, 1037-1044.

Boudreau M.C., & Robey, D. (2005). Enacting Integrated Information Technology: A Human Agency Perspective. Organization Science, 16 (1), 3-18.

Borup et al. (2006). The sociology of expectations in science and technology. Technology Analysis & Strategic Management, 18:3-4, 285-298, DOI: 10.1080/09537320600777002

Fountain, J. E. (2001). Building the Virtual State: Information Technology and Institutional Change. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press.

Fountain, J. E. (2006). Enacting Technology in Networked Governance: Developmental Processes of Cross-Agency Arrangements. National Center for Digital Government Working Paper Series. 16, 1-45.

Garson, G.D. (2003). Technological Teleology and the Theory of Technology Enactment: The Case of the International Trade Data System. Social Science Computer Review, 21 (4), 425-431.

Peters, B. G. (2019). Institutional Theory in Political Science: The New Institutionalism. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing.

West, D. (2004). E-Government and the Transformation of Service Delivery and Citizen Attitudes. Public Administration Review, 64(1), 15-27.

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