Dynamic Reconfiguration in Planetary Exploration: A Sociomaterial Ethnography

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In taking into account the ways in which material and social realms are constitutively entangled within organizations, it is rhetorically tempting to say that technologies and social structures reconfigure each other. But what does it mean to reconfigure? How does one "figure" the other and how do we fully embrace a mutually constitutive relationship when examining fluid relations? This paper delves into these questions by exploring how physical, social, material, technological, and organizational arrangements dynamically reconfigure each other in the duration of organizational practice. Using the venue of space exploration, we present three empirical examples from an ethnographic engagement with a NASA mission orbiting an outer planet in the solar system to examine various configurations and sociomaterial relations. In this endeavor, we suggest that theoretical and empirical traction can be gained by focusing attention on the dynamic reconfigurations between social and material realms. In so doing, we call attention to the ways in which current sociomaterial perspectives have difficulty articulating the shifting, figural, asymmetric and dynamic negotiations between people, social structures, information technologies, and representational objects. This paper contributes to current discussions of sociomaterial relations in information systems research by presenting an empirical treatment of entangled and shifting reconfigurations and providing language for engaging with this perspective.
Original languageEnglish
JournalM I S Quarterly
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)831-848
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • sociomateriality
  • dynamic reconfiguration
  • organizational processes
  • software studies
  • representational practices
  • outer planetary exploration
  • qualitative empirical analysis


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