Information and Communication Technologies in Practice - A Study of Advanced Users in the Workplace in Norway and the United States
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This dissertation examines Information and Communication Technology (ICT) use in workplace environments in Norway and the United States. Despite the appropriateness and timeliness of the World Wide Web and Internet as topics of study today, little is known about how people actually use a full range ICTs in naturalistic settings. This investigation primarily addresses the following research question: How do workers use ICTs to meet business objectives when a full array of ICTs is available to them? The data, targeting high-end ICT users, was collected over a two-year period, from Fall 2000 through Fall 2002. During this time, 72 semi-structured, in-depth individual interviews—36 in the U.S. and 36 in Norway—were collected. A Grounded Theory approach was chosen for its ability to generate descriptive and explanatory accounts of contemporary organizational ICT-use behavior by advanced users. Our analysis resulted in four papers: Paper One The Reflexivity Between ICTs and Business Culture: Using Hofstede’s Theory to Compare Norway and the United States. ● The data of advanced ICT users were coded, analyzed, and placed into Hofstede’s (1980) four-dimensional framework of national-culture differences (power distance, uncertainty avoidance, individualism, and masculinity). We proposed that ICT-use comparisons between the two countries support Hofstede’s findings. We found only partial support for these propositions. As expected, Norway and the U.S. are similar on two dimensions (power distance and uncertainty avoidance), but contrary to expectations, they are also similar on the two dimensions where we expected differences (individualism and masculinity). Paper Two Social Actors’ Enactment of Media Use and Organizational Environments ● This paper uses the concept of scripts to couple Weick’s (1979) notion of enactment and Langer’s (2000) theory of mindfulness/mindlessness with empirical data on the use of ICTs in organizations. The findings: (1) show that the notion of clear-cut boundaries between an organization and its “environment” is problematic, and illustrate how organizational members indeed enact—or co-create—the environments of their organizations; (2) validate that mindfulness is required for media richness theory to be predictive; and (3) illustrate how organizational members construct the richness of one medium through the use of other media. Paper Three A Reflexive Model of ICT Practices in Norway and the United States ● Using Grounded Theory as a research method, and Adaptive Structuration Theory (AST) as our conceptual basis, this paper proposes an empirical model of ICT use. The model consists of four core categories: satisficing, channels, communication structure, and environmental agents. The model lays out the factors that influence individuals’ use when they choose various ICTs. Findings suggest that: (1) the parts of the model are interdependent and mutually causal in that individuals consider and even reconsider the use of multiple communication channels within and between tasks, (2) there are contradictions in how ICTs are perceived with respect to credibility, and (3) people will perceive the utility of ICTs differently depending on the nature of the task and the meta-message that using these sources may convey to others. Paper Four The Study of Sequence: A Narrative Analysis of ICT Practices ● This paper examines how—and why—ICT use-sequences vary. Building on an earlier context-based model of ICT use (Paper Three), we analyzed interviews with experienced users to learn the reasons for their sequences. The paper extends these individual strategies and the ICT model presented in Paper Three by displaying 24 different sequences possible from the four categories of the model. The effect of examining these different possible sequences is their equi-finality. That is, all iterations of sequence lead to ideal and equally successful outcomes. The contributions to theory and practice that can be drawn from these four papers follow three main themes: (1) how workers use multiple ICT, often in a sequential manner, when solving tasks, (2) how workers often satisfice when making choices about what ICTs to use, and (3) how a dynamic and reflexive relationship between users, organizations, and ICTs (social construction) shape how individuals use ICTs. These contributions fill several current theoretical gaps and add to our current practical understanding of ICT use behavior. Communication in organizations has changed drastically as a result of the use of ICTs over the last dozen years. This study maps some particulars of these changes; as the core of my research program, I plan to continue studying these dynamics.
Has partsSørnes, Jan-Oddvar; Stephens, Keri Keilberg; Sætre, Alf Steinar; Browning, Larry Davis. The Reflexivity between ICTs and Business Culture: Applying Hofstede’s Theory to Compare Norway and the United States. Informing Science. 7(1): 1-30, 2004.
Sætre, Alf Steinar; Sørnes, Jan-Oddvar; Browning, Larry Davis; Stephens, Keri Keilberg. Social Actors Enactment of Media use and Organizational Environments. Informing Science and Information Technology Education Joint Conference, June 24-27, Pori, Finland, 2003.
Stephens, Keri Keilberg; Browning, Larry Davis; Sørnes, Jan-Oddvar; Sætre, Alf Steinar. A Reflexive model of ICT practices in Organizations. 52 nd Annual Conference of the International Communication Association, Seoul, Korea, 2002.
Browning, Larry Davis; Sørnes, Jan-Oddvar; Sætre, Alf Steinar; Stephens, Keri Keilberg. The Study of Sequence: A Narrative Analysis of ICT Practices. Annual Conference of the International Communication Association, San Diego, USA, 2003.