Revising the Socio-technical Perspective for The 21st Century: New Mechanism at Work

Louise Harder Fischer, Richard Baskerville

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


A predominant understanding in information systems research (ISR) is that technology has institutionalizing, routinizing, and socializing effects in its interaction with users in the human enterprise. Subscribing to these effects from an organizational point of view no longer provides a full understanding of the more complex dynamics in the 21st century workplace inhabited by a vast amount of different technologies with different purposes. Through a critical realist analysis, focusing on patterns in socio-technical structures and more specific actions and outcomes afforded by the recent and forceful adoption of unified communication and collaboration platforms (UCC), the authors see a new, powerful socio-technical mechanism of individualization that is profoundly changing these socio-technical dynamics. Through 18 interviews with knowledge professionals, the study finds that the mechanisms of individualization reduce the influence of the organization as an institutionalizing and socializing socio-technical system. As an example, the power of individualization creates new parallel structures of small networks of close colleagues. Thus, this research sees new structural patterns and dynamics emerging, forming a much more complex, yet self-organizing socio-technical system. The authors suggest expanding the socio-technical understanding of the present techno-organizational reality by taking into account the socio-technical mechanisms that produce certain outcomes. By understanding the fundamental mechanisms at work, they provide those with a fuller understanding of how these mechanisms can enable, while simultaneously crippling, each other. This fuller understanding also aids the pursuit of providing workplaces that achieve both humanistic and economic objectives.
Original languageEnglish
Article number4
JournalJournal of Database Management
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)69-87
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 11 Nov 2020


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