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Guerra Lucas Rajao Raoni

The site of IT: actor-network and practice theory as approaches for studying IT in organisations

Abstract

Drawing actor-network theory (ANT) and Schatzki's theory of practice, this paper argues that the later approach also has the potential to improve our understanding of the implications of the use of IT artefacts in organisations. The philosopher Theodore Schatzki proposes that the social transpires from meshes of bundles of practice and orders. The practice-orders bundle approach can be seen as a post-structuralist approach since it denies the existence of disembodied structures, and defend a more fluid and decentred view of social life. It is also a post-humanist approach because through the notion of “orders” (arrangements of human and non-human entities) it pays due attention to the role of materiality and non-human agency in the social. Relating Schatzki back to the study of IT in organisations, it is argued that IT artefacts are non-human entities that are part of the orders of many contemporary organisations. From his follows that the site of IT artefacts in the social is as a component of organisational orders, that together with practices form the contexture from where the organisational life transpires. Since IT artefacts are parts of orders they impact on organisational life in two ways: as source of meaning; and through preconfiguraton of actions – mechanisms that also have parallels in ANT. Even though ANT and Schatzki's theory of practice have many points of dialogue, the two approaches disagree on the difference between humans and non-humans and the importance social practices. Since Schatzki (2002) is the only approach that sees practices as a phenomenon that goes beyond the construction of orders (or networks), his theory looks more in detail at work. Given the link between work and organisations, this paper concludes that Schatzki's theory of practice has the potential to lead us to a better appreciation of IT in contemporary organisations.

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