Explaining Sociotechnical Change: An Unstable Equilibrium Perspective

Louise Harder Fischer, Richard Baskerville

Research output: Journal Article or Conference Article in JournalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Within the domain of Information Systems, assumptions around sociotechnical change cohesively build on establishing a stable and balanced relationship between the social and technical structures. When these structures become too rigid, revolutionary moments that punctuate the status quo are required for the structures to accommodate to a new situation. Approaching sociotechnical change with “punctuation of equilibrium” is becoming increasingly ineffective. In line with rising instability and rapid digital development, we argue that new sociotechnical change approaches are needed. In this paper we investigate how individual knowledge workers respond to the increasingly complex challenges they face when orchestrating social and technical structures to support efficient and creative knowledge work. We suggest a new perspective that covers an unstable equilibrium emerging from the interplay between individuals and their usage of “the collection of rigid and flexible workplace technologies”. Our study is based on data from interviews made with 40 knowledge professionals over a period of three years, inquiring into individual experiences with sociotechnical change. Our study reveals contradictory patterns of both technological-individualisation and -socialisation. A universal generative mechanism emerges when these patterns complement each other and generates continuous change that seems to diminish inertia from rigid structures while also intensifying agile responses.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Information Systems
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)634-652
Number of pages23
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Sociotechnical change
  • deep and surface structures
  • generative mechanisms
  • unstable equilibrium
  • critical realism


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