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This book is a God-send for those like teachers, politicians, journalists and managers who find themselves obliged to comment on today’s technology-shaped events but lack the background to achieve their own balance.” J. C. Spender, professor at ESADE, Barcelona

Ulla Eriksson-Zetterquist is Associate Professor of Management Studies, Gothenburg Research Institute, School of Business, Economics, and Law, University of Gothenburg, Sweden. Thomas Kalling is Professor of Strategy and Information Technology, and Director of the Institute of Economic Research at Lund University School of Economics and Management, Sweden. Alexander Styhre is Professor and Chair of Organization Theory and Management, School of Business, Economics, and Law, University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

Best.nr 47-09439-4

Tryck.nr 47-09439-4-00

Organizing Technology - omslag.indd 1

Eriksson-Zetterquist • Kalling • Styhre

”The authors have pulled together a rich review and commentary on much written about technology over the last 200 years, providing us with an invaluable resource and a guiding hand. They recapture the oft-forgotten distinction between productive and administrative technologies to help us view recent changes in the global workplace.

Organizing Technologies

Organization theory and management studies tend to underrate the importance of technological resources in accomplishing organized activities. In organizations, a wide variety of technologies are mobilized on a day-to-day basis to accomplish organized activities. Some of these technologies are subject to continuous discussions and controversies while others are taken for granted or simply ignored. Organizing Technologies presents theories about technology and its recursive ability to both shape its users and to be shaped by its very use, outlining an analytical model where technologies serve three broad functions within organizations: to produce goods and services, to enhance administrative work, and to connect and co-align organizations within networks, supply chains, or distribution systems.

Organizing Technologies Ulla Eriksson-Zetterquist Thomas Kalling Alexander Styhre

Liber Copenhagen Business School Press Universitetsforlaget

10-10-18 15.58.09


Organizing Technologies ISBN 978-91-47-09439-4 (Sweden) ISBN 978-82-15-01814-0 (Norway) ISBN 978-87-630-0239-4 (Rest of the World) © 2011 The authors and Liber AB Publisher’s editors: Ola Håkansson and Carina Blohmé Design: Fredrik Elvander Illustrations: Jonny Hallberg Picture editor: Eva Hansson-Rosdahl Pictures: IBL/Mary Evans p. 43 Honda/Yuji Ikeda p. 111 Thinkstock p. 124 IBL/Heritage Image p. 142, 184 IBL/Science Photo Library p. 193 IBL/Magnum/Peter Marlow p. 203 1:1 Typeset: Integra, Indien Printed by: Kina 2011

Distribution Sweden Liber AB S-205 10 Malmö, Sweden tel +46 40-25 86 00, fax +46 40-97 05 50 http://www.liber.se Norway Universitetsforlaget AS Postboks 508 0105 Oslo phone: +47 24 14 75 00, fax +47 24 14 75 01 post@universitetsforlaget.no www.universitetsforlaget.nu Denmark DBK Logistics, Mimersvej 4 DK-4600 Koege, Denmark phone: +45 3269 7788, fax: +45 3269 7789 www.cbspress.dk North America International Specialized Book Services 920 NE 58th Ave., Suite 300 Portland, OR 97213, USA phone: +1 800 944 6190, fax: +1 503 280 8832 Rest of the World Marston Book Services, P. O. Box 269 Abingdon, Oxfordshire, OX14 4YN, UK phone: +44 (0) 1235 465500, fax: +44 (0) 1235 465555 E-mail Direct Customers: direct.order@marston.co.uk E-mail Booksellers: trade.order@marston.co.uk All rights reserved No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrival system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photo-copying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

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Contents

Preface 1. Introduction: Technology and organizing

4 6

Part 1: Theory 2. The concept of technology 3. Technology, humans, and organizing

19 20 55

Part 2: Cases 4. Production technologies 5. Administrative technologies 6. Technology and Inter-Organizational Relations

97 98 137 182

Part 3: Technologies of organizing 7. Images of technology

229 230

Bibliography

276

Index

295

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Preface All books have their own peculiar history and specific contingencies. At times, those histories and contingencies are worthy of being told in public; in other cases, wider audiences should be spared the details. In our case, this book is the outcome of a variety of circumstances. However, what triggered its writing was the perceived lack of technology as an important input variable in organization theory. This book is not a textbook in the conventional sense of the term, nor does it have any encyclopedic ambitions as regards “telling it all.” It is, rather, an attempt to point to some of the intersections between technology and organizing and, hopefully, to inspire the inclusion of technologies in the study of organizing. The concept of technology used in the book is a broad one, ranging from the elementary to the sophisticated (from pottery to genetically-modified laboratory mice), from the con­spicuous to the infrastructural (from Internet web pages to the Internet protocols), and from the local to the global (from idiosyncratic project management time-mapping routines to international standards for arithmetic). In addition, no “theory” of technology, organizing or technologies of organizing is presented in the book; rather, the objective that the text sets itself is to present, in a reasonably coherent manner, a series of encounters with technologies used in organizations. What we hope to accomplish is to point to the connections and terrain-crossings between technology and organization theory and to induce further interest in this (arguably) under-theorized domain in our field. Ulla Eriksson-Zetterquist wishes to thank Barbara Czarniawska, Kajsa Lindberg, Sten Jönsson, and Rolf Solli, as well as her colleagues in the research group Organizing in Action Nets, GRI, for their continuing theoretical and field-oriented exploration and reflection upon technologies, organizing, and action nets.

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P r e f a c e ďťż

Thomas Kalling gratefully acknowledges the time and effort spent over the years by aroused, desperate and indifferent bystanders and users of technology, kindly and patiently explaining their experiences in response to his silly questions. Alexander Styhre would like to thank his former colleagues at Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, and his colleagues at the School of Business, Economics, and Law, attached to the University of Gothenburg, for inspiration. All three authors would like to thank Ola HĂĽkansson for commissioning this book. Stanford, Lund, Gothenburg, September, 2010

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Chapter 1

Introduction: Technology and organizing Understanding technology in organizations and the organization of technology This is an exciting time to study technology and organizations. Advances in computing and other forms of new technology have a pervasive effect on our organizational lives. It is difficult to find any form of organization or organizational process that has not been touched by the advances in new technology. Goodman and Sproull (1990: xi)

Everyday life is a thoroughly-organized experienced. As many textbooks and research monographs testify – thereby justifying their raison d’être – we are born, we live, and we die organized. Even the afterlife, whose initial stage is often taken care of by professional service providers called funeral homes, constitutes an industry and a profession in its own right. Such organized activities are embedded in the use of a variety of technologies – machines, techniques,

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tools, devices, gadgets, etc – that are integral parts of the organizations. In many cases, such technologies are overt and con­spicuous. For instance, when visiting a factory equipped with welding robots, such as in the body shop of an automobile plant, one never fails to be impressed by the well-choreographed and precise movements of the industrial robots doing the repetitive and monotonous welding previously done by humans, skilled craftsmen (and, eventually, perhaps a handful women) capable of transforming the individual metal plates into automobile bodies. In other cases, technologies are taken for granted and withdraw into the background of the organized activities. When buying groceries, it may be that the average customer is only paying slight attention to the technologies constituting the grocery store; the refrigerated storage spaces for the diary products, the electronic scales used when weighting fruit and veg, and the complex computer system used by the cashier which stores a range of data that may be valuable in the day-to-day running of the grocery store and when planning how to optimize the intersection between supply and demand. When we think about the number of technologies that cross our paths in our day-to-day work, there are quite a number of technological systems and individual items that both help and hinder us at work and at play, beginning, perhaps, when our digital alarm clocks ring at 6.30 in the morning and ending when we switch off our TV sets at 11.00 at night when going back to bed. Some technologies are helpful in, for instance, transporting us to work by bus, while other technologies erect boundaries regarding what we can and cannot do. For instance, a lost VISA card or a forgotten password immediately impose new restraints on a person no longer capable of acting as normal. The purpose of this book is to examine the concept of techno­ logy as an important component of organizing matters. Techno­ logy is used here as a rather broad term which includes all sorts of technical systems, technological entities, and other artifacts

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produced by humans to influence and enable social life. As the theoretical chapters will demonstrate, technology is a complex and multifaceted term, heavily debated in the history of ideas and examined by a variety of scientific disciplines. However, the perspective pursued in this book is embedded in an organization theory frame of reference with the book’s underlying rationale being that technology largely tends to be taken for granted during organizational analysis. Substantial attention has been paid to abstract concepts such as “institutions”, “organizational capa­ cities”, “leadership practice”, “symbolic management”, “organizational learning”, and so forth, while the actual surroundings within organizations, its materiality, are often considered to be either self-enclosed and self-explanatory or simply not interesting enough to pay attention to. We agree here with Wanda Orlikowsky (2007) in emphasizing the need for understanding how the materiality of organization and humans interact and mutually constitute one another without necessarily privileging one over the other: [M]ateriality is integral to organizing . . . the social and the material are constitutively entangled in everyday life. A position of constitutive entanglement does not privilege either humans or technology (in one-way interactions), nor does it link them through a form of mutual reciprocation (in two-way inter­action). Instead, the social and the material are considered to be inextricably related – there is no social that is not also material, and no material that is not also social. (Orlikowski, 2007: 1437)

One of the principal objectives of the book is to examine techno­ logy not as that which is deterministic in nature but as that which is rather strongly informed and shaped by its use; technology

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is not fixed once and for all after being launched on a market; instead, it is constantly subjected to modification during use (see also Leonardi and Barley, 2008). The other objective is to encourage a critical view of technology, to underline the fact that existing technologies and dominant technologies by no means have some innate essence that qualifies them as the leading technological system. Instead, such technologies are predominant because there was a set of social and practical conditions with which the given technology matched at a specific point in time. As MacKenzie (1995) expressed it: Hindsight often makes it appear that the successful technology is simply intrinsically superior, but hindsight – here and elsewhere – can be a misleading form of vision. Historians and sociologists of technology would do well to avoid explaining the success of technology by its assumed intrinsic technical superiority to its rivals. Instead, they should seek, even-handedly, to understand how its actual superiority came into being, while suspending judgment as to whether it is intrinsic”. (MacKenzie, 1996: 7)

The analysis of technology has thus been moving away from what have been called “internalist” perspectives on techno­ logy, assuming that the inner functioning of a technology is capable of explaining its position in the marketplace or in society more broadly, towards an “externalist” or “contextualist” position, suggesting that technologies have always, more or less successfully, been introduced into society by various users modifying and further developing the technology, indicating that there is a long series of “non-technological” conditions that ultimately determine the success and reception of a new

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technology. For instance, in the 1990s, engineers at Ericsson refused to compromise regarding their technically-superior mobile phone antenna system, which demanded that a short antenna be mounted on the handset. In contrast, Nokia engineers thought the functionality of their handset was only marginally affected by having an antenna inside the case and that the aesthetic features of the handset were more pronounced when choosing this design alternative. As a consequence, consumers selected the technically less advanced Nokia handsets instead of the Ericsson ones simply because the Finnish handsets looked “more cool” or “sophisticated”. Using an externalist perspective on technology allows the explanation of even more complex cases than the Ericsson-Nokia one because it introduces a variety of variables and explanatory frameworks into the study of technology.

The absent presence of technology in organization theory One of the key rationales used when writing this book is the re-­ latively marginal interest in technology in organization theory. In the so-called linguistic turn in the social sciences, conceiving of human societies as primarily being constituted through language, symbolism and semiotics, the material elements of society have been given a less prominent role. In contemporary capitalism, characterized by an abundance of material resources (primarily for the benefit of only some parts of the world population), the material conditions of human life may be of less concern than the symbolic nature of the human condition. At the same time, the level of technological intervention in human life is unprecedented as we become virtual cyborgs (cybernetic organisms) who live their everyday lives walking

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around fully equipped with mobile phones, mp3 players, portable laptops, and even medical devices such as pacemakers or knee replacements; the boundary between humans and techno­ logies is becoming increasingly permeable. In addition, recent advancements in the fields of biotechno­logy and biomedicine are ­f urther accentuating the fragile epistemological boundary that exists between the human being and the machine, between biological and technological systems. Vaccines, genetically­modified laboratory animals, and mechanical devices used when repairing the human body are just a few examples of rather recent biotechnological and biomedical contributions. In the future, we may well see a great variety of new techno­ logies in this domain. Given this central, even primordial, influence of techno­ logy on everyday life, and on organizations more specifically, it is important to address the relationship between technology, humans, and organizing. As organization theory often draws attention to human participants and their doing in organizing, machines have a tendency to be forgotten in research. An example of this can be found when scrutinizing discussed topics in well-known journals, as well as edited books discussing organization and organizing. In a study of the references and themes used in articles published in the Scandinavian Journal of Management during the period 1984 to 1992, as well as the handbook volume The Northern Lights: Organization Theory in Scandinavia edited by Czarniawska and Sevón, and published in 2003, Lars Engwall (2003) listed the most significant words used in the most cited works by Scandinavian scholars. In this listing, the orientation towards cognitive, institutional, and cultural aspects became obvious, while technology was not mentioned at all. Using database-systems searches, similar studies can be done of some of the journals dominating

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organization theory. For instance, when using “technology” as a keyword in Organization studies, 22 articles were listed (covering the period 1995 to 2009, with an average publication rate of 36 articles per year in 1995 rising to 72 in 2009), Human relations 25 articles (December 1991 to August 2009 of an average publication rate of 72 articles per year), Organization Science 32 articles (1990–2009, annual numbers of publications had increased from 24 to 42) and Administrative Science Quarterly had only one article when searching on keywords but 129 when searching abstracts (covering the period from 1957 to 2009, annual publication varying between 24 and 50). It can also be noted that, during the first half of the 20th century, while the technology aspects of organizations were not being focused on by researchers, the organizations were largely metaphorically seen as machines (Morgan, 1980). Since the improvers of organizing practices, at the beginning of the 20th century, were people from mechanical engineering, the standardization of organizations was based upon their own methods. This way, systems for accounting, determining wages, or recruiting labour came to be oriented by an engineering discourse rather than a sociological one (Shenhav, 1999). Organizations were expected to carry out work to reach pre-specified goals following the rational model of means-ends relationships. When elaborating organizations in accordance with classical and bureaucratic organization theory, the focus was inclined towards the “analysis and design of the formal structure of an organization and its technology” ­(Morgan, 1980: 614). The risk of not paying attention to technology while studying organizing and organization can be referred to as the black-box phenomenon. Parts of the routines, skills, norms and practices of organizing are built into the machines in use, but this is not obvious to anyone trying to figure out how this particular

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form of organizing enables the organization to arise. The obvious social norms will be found and interpreted but not the one inscribed into the technological artifacts. This way, only half or less – no one will, of course, be able to say the precise amount – of the aspects of organizing will become a matter of research and interpretation. As Joerges and Czarniawska (1998:373) pointed out: Although they are all about norm-oriented action and thus about problems of regulating and ordering social life, ‘technical norms’ or ‘rules of technology’ remain conspicuously absent from the indexes of social science textbooks, be it sociology or organization theory. Social scientists are declared competent in social norms; technical norms are placed in charge of engineers. A clean division of labour is securely in place. By such machinations, one is tempted to say, the inscribed world of material artifacts, tools, machines, instruments and implements, apparata and automata, ever ready to continue inscribing, is made into an illegitimate subject for social science. We do research on organizations which develop and operate highly complicated and risky machinery, on people who have opinions and knowledge about them, on societies in which technology figures as powerful ideology or as central cultural symbol. However, since materialized technology remains shielded from analysis, the ubiquitous phenomenon of technical norms escapes our notice. The constitution of organization as the aggregates of social practices and materialities such as technology is, thus, the topic of discussion in this book.

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The operative model To repeat, the perspective taken in this book is an organizational theory perspective whereby technology is one resource among many other resources, both tangible and intangible, that are used in organizing. However, although the literature on technology is massive, it is at times a topic that “recedes into the walls” of organizations, with technologies only occasionally being subject to reflection, discussion, and, at times, even controversy. Since there is no widespread “Linnaean system” of the technologies, dividing technologies into families, classes, and groups, we have selected a rather simple, but hopefully educationally meaningful, model for structuring the book. First, we look at the firm in terms of what Porter (1985) called a “value chain”, a set of integrated activities and practices that contribute to the production of some kind of output, normally a good or a service. Within this value chain, there are activities and practices that contri­ bute to the production of value being added to the output; these activities and practices we refer to as production. Production of the output is supported by a series of activities and practices that we refer to using the general term administration. Collins (1979: 26) also made this distinction between “technologies of production” and “technologies of administration”. Administration is the totality of activities and practices considered necessary by the firm for accomplishing the final output. For instance, the procurement of raw materials and components, the management of human resource issues such as the hiring of new employees, and programs organized in order to train coworkers all constitute examples of administrative matters. In our perspective, of necessity based on a simplified model of complex realities, the value chain, i.e. the firm, is composed of production and administration activities and practices. However, as suggested by proponents of the network analysis of organizational fields, clusters,

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networks, industries, and so forth, no firm is “an island.” Instead, most forms and organizations are located within networks of firms and organizations which either provide the input materials for the firm’s specific value chain or which handle the output in various ways, in sales companies or distribution networks for instance. In addition, a number of firms and organizations influence, either directly or indirectly, how the production and administration are organized and carried out. This network of firms is maintained and reinforced using a number of technologies and tools, and we consequently propose a model comprising the following technologies: • Production technologies enabling output • Administrative technologies supporting production • Network technologies connecting the value chain (the focal firm) with the relevant firms and organizations within the field or industry While this tripartite model may be debated and contested, it has the obvious merit of being a simple and easily understood functionalist model of how a firm operates from a bird’s eye view. In order to convey the full complexity of the literature and perspectives on the concept of technology, there may be some educational value in reducing the firm to its elementary components and pro­ cesses. However, such a procedure neither suggests nor assumes that the map and the territory look the same; instead, a useful map helps the subject to orient him- or herself in a domain not fully known and, given such ambitions, we believe our operative model may be justified.

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Firm Infrastructure

G IN

Outbound Logistics

Marketing & Sales

Service

G

Operations

AR

Inbound Logistics

IN

Procurement

M

Production technology (Chapter 4)

Technology Development

AR

Administrative technology (Chapter 5)

M

Human Resource Management

Figure 1.1. Porter’s Value Chain, explaining the outline of this book.

Communication technology (Chapter 6)

Figure 1.2. When the Porter-chains of several organizations coexist in a network, functional Communication technologies must be developed.

Outline of the book The book is structured into two main parts and one final part summarizing some of the ideas and discussing the co-constitutive nature of technology and organization. In the first part, which is primarily theoretical, Chapter 2 addresses the concept of techno­ logy from a transdisciplinary perspective. In this chapter, techno­ logy is discussed as something which is intimately connected with the emergence of more advanced human societies; technology is

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the primus motor but also the outcome of more sophisticated social organizations. In addressing technology in such a perspective, historical accounts of technology, anthropology, sociology, and philosophy comprise some of the bodies of text used. In Chapter 3, the relationship between humans and technology is examined, suggesting that technology is fundamentally shaped and formed by its use. At the same time, new technologies are constantly influencing human actions and interaction in sometimes unexpected ways. The chapter concludes that there is an intricate relationship between technology, humans, and organization which needs to be unraveled in detail in studies of technology. In the second part, including three chapters (Chapters 4 through 6), the operative model introduced above structures the discussion. Consequently, Chapter 4 discusses various examples of the forms of production technologies, tools, machinery, devices, etc. used to add value to some commodities or services in organizational settings. In Chapter 5, administrative technologies, that is, technologies mobilized in organizational procedures that support the core, the value-adding activities of the production functions in Porter’s (1980) model are discussed in some detail. In Chapter 6, technologies used during interactions with other organizations, especially in transportation and the flow of information and data across organizational boundaries, are discussed. The final chapter addresses some of the key ideas advanced in the book and uses some of the organizational metaphors proposed by Gareth Morgan (1980) to make sense of the use of technology in organizations. In the latter parts of this chapter, the practical implications for organizational activities are examined in more detail using a schematic model of the key organizational parameters. The purpose of this book is by no means to exhaustively examine the issue of technology and organization. Given the vast scope

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of this topic, the book is instead an attempt to introduce a number of theories and perspectives regarding the relationship between technology and organization. Organization theorists often take technology for granted, thereby contributing to the black-boxing of the complex socio-material practices preceding the actual use of technologies. Technology then becomes infrastructural, components of organizational realities which are by and large ignored until the technology ceases to function as intended and eventually leads to a breakdown in the activities. For instance, when the power supply system breaks down on a large scale, as it did in the New York City metropolitan area and on the East Coast of the US in 1977, technology is brought back from the infrastructural level and individuals instantly become aware of their vulnerability and their reliance on the availability of electric power. Technology theorists, on the other hand, do not sufficiently recognize organizational matters. Students of technology pay attention to the users’ influence on and shaping of technology, but it is less common to think of those users and their involvement with the technology as strongly affected by the institutional and organizational setting. That is, the relationship between technology, user, and organization is more multifaceted and complicated than at times recognized. Given this starting point, the book aims to provide a framework for studying the development, use, and abandonment of technologies and tools in organizational settings. Having no encyclopedic ambitions, the book attempts to bring techno­ logy back into the domain of organization studies. Technology is a constitutive element of organization; but it is also, in itself, the organization of matter and sociomaterial practices in actual settings. Recognizing these relationships, indeed the relationality, of technology, humans, and organization would help organization theory address a variety of contemporary practices and concerns.

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Part 1:

Theory

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Chapter 2

The concept of technology Introduction In 1870, in the middle of the French-German war of 1870–1871, a woman stepped into a telegraph office in Karlsruhe, Germany, asking for a dish full of sauerkraut to be telegraphed to her son, fighting at the front. The telegrapher had great difficulty convincing the caring mother that such services were outside the scope of this recent technological wonder, the telegraph. The woman insisted that she had heard that objects could be telegraphed; for instance, soldiers were ordered to the front by telegraph (Standage, 1998: 65). Although such stories about how technologies are understood and interpreted are great fun for those of us who are accustomed to the new technological wonders, one should not be too keen to dismiss this poor mother caring about her son’s nutritional intake as ignorant or based on weak intellectual capacities. After all, who can explain today, in great detail and with a fundamental understanding, how a range of technologies function? While those of us who claim to be modern and contemporary may be familiar with, and capable of accommodating, new mechanical, digital, and biotechnological technologies, we do not have a particularly deeper understanding of how a computer works, for instance, than the woman from Karlsruhe knew about the telegraph. The

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difference is that we are capable of understanding what technologies can accomplish. However, even for us, we are at times not fully sure about whether the claims of the proponents of various new technologies are true or false, whether they are adequate predictions or imaginative fantasies. For instance, when nanotechno­ logy suggests that, in the future, tiny robots, known as nanobots or nanoids, would be circulating in our bloodstream looking after the free circulation of our blood ( Jones, 2004), we might be incapable of knowing what to think about such technological maintenance procedures conducted from within. No more heart attacks due to our arteries hardening or getting blocked sounds appealing, but is this scenario to be taken as a legitimate claim, or does it just re­present the bedtime stories of engineers who read too many Jules Verne novels as kids? The telegraph story suggests that there will always be opportunities to poke fun at the uninformed user or at new technologies. However, at the same time, one also needs to know that most technologies are inaccessible via common-sense thinking and are largely taken for granted, thus increasingly receding into the layer of infrastructure of everyday life. This chapter aims to introduce a variety of theoretical perspectives on technology as a human accomplishment with a recursive relationship between its material and social components. On the one hand, all technologies are functionally-organized artifacts or entities that include various components and elements, while on the other, a technology is never solely “technological”, in isolation from its social users and its role in everyday practice; instead, it is always, from the very outset, social. Differently, however, there are no “extra-social positions” from which technologies are developed; nor does technology fall from the sky. Instead, technologies largely represent and embody the predominant values, beliefs, norms, and economic conditions of a specific society. In what follows, the very concept of “technology” is subjected to critical

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analysis and reflection. In this chapter, the notion of technology is examined. In the following chapter, we discuss in more detail how technology is introduced, used, and enacted by humans, either individually or in groups, in society. While the separation of the technological entity from its very use is somewhat misleading, given the perspective on technology taken in this book, this separation is beneficial for the educational features of the book. However, the perspective of “first technology, then its use” must be seen as a smooth transfer from the level of the individual entity to that of the broader social bearings of the technology, its location in a social space.

Theoretical perspectives on technology The concept of technology Etymologically, the concept of technology is derived from the Greek concepts of techne, τέχνη, and logos. Logos means both language and speech and forms the root of a range of terms including logic and logical. Techne is a complicated term that denotes the art or skills of the artisan. In the tradition of Greek philosophy, episteme is the term for more abstract and scholarly knowledge; knowledge that transcends day-to-day activities and addresses universal forms. In contrast, techne is the practical know-how that the artisan has acquired over time by engaging with the transformation of pieces of nature into tools and artifacts. As suggested by, for instance, the medieval historian Jacques le Goff (1993: 62), the Latin translation of techne is ars, arts, and art is thus a form of expertise embedded in specific skills and capacities. An art is thus; “[a]ny rational and just activity of the mind applied to the manufacturing of instruments, both material and intellectual; it was an intelligent technique for ‘doing’ or ‘making.’” In this view,

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2 . Th e c o n c e p t o f t e c h n o l o g y

the medieval intellectual was an “artist” with specialized skills which could be applied when solving various theoretical problems. In this view, the connection between techne, the arts, and the modern fabrications which we refer to as “technologies” underlines the practical utility and engagement with materials occurring in handcraft art work, and the use of technology. Historically, technologies have also been widely seen as artistic creations. Way into the 20th century, many machines used in the manufacturing industry, for instance, included certain aesthetic qualities such as ornaments and company logos. Kasson (1976) emphasized such aesthetic features of technology in 19th century America, suggesting that Americans saw qualities in technologies that they saw in the fine arts. What goes for the 19th century is also relevant today. Everyday household technologies, such as espresso machines or laptop computers, are not just technologies whose value lies in their performance, it also lies in their symbolic function or their aesthetic appeal. Such overt connections between techne and art rest on a long tradition of thinking. Although there are many definitions of technology, we may draw here on Beniger’s (1986: 9, cited in Steuer, 1992: 73) rather general definition of the term as “any intentional extension of a natural process, that is, processing of matter, energy, and information that characterizes all living systems”. This is an interesting definition in terms of emphasizing the innate relationship between the technology in question and a range of elementary concepts such as “matter”, “energy”, and “information”, being in themselves highly complex and heavily-debated constructs. In addition, it also emphasizes that technologies are “extensions” of biological, “living” systems. Beniger draws here on a long philosophical tradition whereby life is conceived of as a form of an advanced chemicomechanical system and whereby technology is seen as that which mimics such an advanced system. In this view, the computer is a

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This book is a God-send for those like teachers, politicians, journalists and managers who find themselves obliged to comment on today’s technology-shaped events but lack the background to achieve their own balance.” J. C. Spender, professor at ESADE, Barcelona

Ulla Eriksson-Zetterquist is Associate Professor of Management Studies, Gothenburg Research Institute, School of Business, Economics, and Law, University of Gothenburg, Sweden. Thomas Kalling is Professor of Strategy and Information Technology, and Director of the Institute of Economic Research at Lund University School of Economics and Management, Sweden. Alexander Styhre is Professor and Chair of Organization Theory and Management, School of Business, Economics, and Law, University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

Best.nr 47-09439-4

Tryck.nr 47-09439-4-00

Organizing Technology - omslag.indd 1

Eriksson-Zetterquist • Kalling • Styhre

”The authors have pulled together a rich review and commentary on much written about technology over the last 200 years, providing us with an invaluable resource and a guiding hand. They recapture the oft-forgotten distinction between productive and administrative technologies to help us view recent changes in the global workplace.

Organizing Technologies

Organization theory and management studies tend to underrate the importance of technological resources in accomplishing organized activities. In organizations, a wide variety of technologies are mobilized on a day-to-day basis to accomplish organized activities. Some of these technologies are subject to continuous discussions and controversies while others are taken for granted or simply ignored. Organizing Technologies presents theories about technology and its recursive ability to both shape its users and to be shaped by its very use, outlining an analytical model where technologies serve three broad functions within organizations: to produce goods and services, to enhance administrative work, and to connect and co-align organizations within networks, supply chains, or distribution systems.

Organizing Technologies Ulla Eriksson-Zetterquist Thomas Kalling Alexander Styhre

Liber Copenhagen Business School Press Universitetsforlaget

10-10-18 15.58.09


9789147094394