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The Duality of Technology: Rethinking the Concept of Technology in Organizations

Author

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  • Wanda J. Orlikowski

    (Sloan School of Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 50 Memorial Drive (E53-329), Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139)

Abstract

This paper develops a new theoretical model with which to examine the interaction between technology and organizations. Early research studies assumed technology to be an objective, external force that would have deterministic impacts on organizational properties such as structure. Later researchers focused on the human aspect of technology, seeing it as the outcome of strategic choice and social action. This paper suggests that either view is incomplete, and proposes a reconceptualization of technology that takes both perspectives into account. A theoretical model—the structurational model of technology—is built on the basis of this new conceptualization, and its workings explored through discussion of a field study of information technology. The paper suggests that the reformulation of the technology concept and the structurational model of technology allow a deeper and more dialectical understanding of the interaction between technology and organizations. This understanding provides insight into the limits and opportunities of human choice, technology development and use, and organizational design. Implications for future research of the new concept of technology and the structurational model of technology are discussed.

Suggested Citation

  • Wanda J. Orlikowski, 1992. "The Duality of Technology: Rethinking the Concept of Technology in Organizations," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 3(3), pages 398-427, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:ororsc:v:3:y:1992:i:3:p:398-427
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    File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1287/orsc.3.3.398
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