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Gumeta Humberto

The role of Information Technology in clerical communities: a case study from a Mexican government organization


This paper focuses on the development and challenges faced by a FLOSS (Free/Libre Open Source Software) group within a strongly hierarchical organization in the developing world. The researcher applied broadly interpretive methods of research to gather and analyse information during a six-month stay at Mexico’s INEGI. Using a community of practice-based framework, it was found that since socialization is the weakest of objectives of FLOSS user groups, there is not a tightly-knit social fabric to support locally situated non-canonical practices and informal learning. However, it was found that identity is strong and related to the agenda of FLOSS as a whole, sometimes causing “tensions of identity” between FLOSS and the formal organization. Similary, informal learning tends to occurr through interactions with the wider FLOSS community rather than with the co-located FLOSS group. In this sense, it would be worthwhile to question the importance and relevance of local FLOSS groups as compared to the national or international “Community of Practice” around FLOSS. It was also found that the “success” or “failure” of intra-organizational FLOSS groups do not depend entirely on its own dynamics or its interaction with the formal hierarchy, but also on the presence or absence of “technological neutrality” regulations at the national level. Keywords: Free software, open source, software libre, community of practice, government organization

Keywords: community, clerical staff, government organization, practice, information technology

The Dermot Moran and Lucas Introna Keynote Lecture
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