Social shaping of information infrastructure: on being specific about the technology

Eric Monteiro, Ole Hanseth

We are in this paper discussing conceptualisations of the relationship between IT and organisational issues. To move beyond an IT enables/ constrains position, we argue that it is necessary to take the specifics of an information system (IS) more serious. A theoretical framework called actor network theory from social studies of science and technology is presented as promising in this regard. With respect to new organisational forms, the class of ISs which need closer scrutiny is information infrastructures (INIs). They have characteristics which distinguish them from other ISs, namely the role and pattern of diffusion of standards. These standards are neither ready-made nor neutral: they inscribe organisational behaviour deeply within their technical details. Diffusion and adoption of standards depart from other kinds of ISs by requiring the coordination of the surrounding actors, institutional arrangements and work practices.

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