Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Revisiting technology, organisational change and how we research it

One area that I am particularly interested in is the impact of technology on organisational change. I have been spending a little time recently researching into this area, and there are number of publications which I think are worth revisiting, particularly in the context of research methods generally and those concerned with Web Science in particular.

social machines in Wen Science, from Hendler et al 2008.









Social Interactions in the Web,  in CACM, Hendler et al 2008

For now this post is mostly a note to self, but will repay some further thought and development. If you have comments or pointers to other work, that would be excellent.

A few years ago, when wanting to present some of my findings to a conference, my paper was rebuffed by (what I thought to be a low grade and shallow) reviewer, whose comments on the work was sparse, but which began 'I don't much care for this sort of research'.

As someone who takes an interdisciplinary approach my research typically uses a mixed methods approach. I am aware that in the area of technology enhanced learning, we are often at an intersection between researchers from the social sciences (often education, psychology, anthropology) and those from the more logical positivist traditions of the hard applied sciences such as computer science. The challenge is always to find ways of overcoming epistemological differences between disciplines and engaging in useful and constructive dialogue across any perceived divides.

its interesting to note that this issue is at the core of a large part of what we are tacking in Web Science - which was described in one of the earliest papers (Berners-Lee et al, 2006) as being concerned with  the Engineering, Technology and Analytics of the web as well as being "The science of decentralised information systems". It is however also pointed out that that Web Science is fundamentally a study of socially embedded technology (and thus my implication inherently inter-disciplinary). Subsequent publications (for example Hendler et al 2008) identify the role of 'social machines" and talk about the inter-relationship between the Engineering and Technology and the Social Dimensions

In that context, these publications which come from the field of management science and information science, which, in themselves represent fields of study which have probably already experienced Biglan's hard applied/soft applied intersection.

There are a number of approaches which have arisen following on from Gidden's work on structuation which are of interest. Orlikowski has been influential in discussion of research methods appropriate for this area.


Berners-Lee, T., Hall, W., Hendler, J. A., O’Hara, K., Shadbolt, N. and Weitzner, D. J. (2006) A Framework for Web Science. Foundations and Trends in Web Science, 1 (1). pp. 1-130.

Hendler, J., Shadbolt, N., Hall, W., Berners-Lee, T. and Weitzner, D. (2008) Web Science: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Understanding the Web. Communications of the ACM, 51 (7). pp. 60-69.

DeSanctis, G., & Scott Poole, M. (1994). Capturing the Complexity in Advanced Technology Use: Adaptive Structuration Theory. Organization Science, 5(2), 121-147.

Giddens, A. (1986). The constitution of society: Outline of the theory of structuration

Also available in the Hartley Library Southampton

Orlikowski, W. (2000). Using Technology and Constituting Structures: A Practice Lens for Studying Technology in Organizations. Organization Science, 11(4), 404-428

Orlikowski, W.J. and Baroudi, J.J. (1991) Studying Information Technology in Organizations: Research Approaches and Assumptions. Information Systems Research, 2 (1), 1-28

Orlikowski, W. J. and Barley, S. R. (2001). Technology And Institutions: What Can Research On Information Technology And Research On Organizations Learn From Each Other? MIS Quarterly, 25(2), 145-165.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Potential Projects: Tools and Environments for Learning Potential Projects: Tools and Environments for Learning

As students progress through their education we observe that they customise and build their own learning environments bringing together sets of preferred tools in a manner which is individual and responsive to their personal needs.

The Southampton Learning Environment seeks to establish a framework in which to provide personalised and personalisable information and services.

Project students undertake dissertation work related to the Southampton Learning environment will have the opportunity to address challenging problems across a range of focus areas associated with the development of this exciting new environment.

Indicative areas include but are not restricted to

• Interface specification and design

• Linked data for interoperability

• Widgets to support learning

• Personalisation framework

• Widget container

• Id management framework

• Evaluation of learning environment tools

• Tools for research/visualisations

see also - something to read