How Should Technology-Mediated Organizational Change Be Explained? A Comparison of the Contributions of Critical Realism and Activity Theory

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In this paper, critical realism and activity theory are compared within the context of theorizing technology-mediated organizational change. An activity theoretic analysis of the implementation of large-scale disruptive information systems in a public sector setting (in particular concerning paramedic treatment of heart attack patients and ambulance dispatch work activity) is used to illustrate how activity theory makes a significant contribution to critical realism, by (1) locating technology within “activity systems” and theorizing change through contradictions and congruencies within those systems; (2) developing recent critical realism-inspired theorization of the “inscription” of cultural and social relations within technology; and (3) developing recent insights of critical realist researchers regarding the way in which the performance management agenda is mediated through IS.


Additional Details

Author David K. Allen, Andrew Brown, Stan Karanasios, and Alistair Norman
Year 2013
Volume 37
Issue 3
Keywords Critical realism, activity theory, theory, information systems, organization change, evaluation
Page Numbers 835-854