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Information technology in a culture of complaint: derogation, depreciation, and the appropriation of organizational transformation

Author: Weeks, John R. INSEAD Area: Organisational Behaviour Series: Working Paper ; 98/71/OB Publisher: Fontainebleau : INSEAD, 1998.Language: EnglishDescription: 33 p.Type of document: INSEAD Working Paper Online Access: Click here Abstract: Why do people complain about information technology? This chapter draws from an ethnographic study of an ongoing organizational transformation in a large, British retail bank to argue that complaint about IT does not always express a desire for change or a return to the status quo ante. Sometimes it performs these expressive functions, but complaint is best understood as an interaction ritual that may also perform certain social functions. In this chapter, the authors distinguishes between two rituals of complaint about IT in the Bank -derogation and depreciation- and describes the uses of each in the organization in bringing peope together, building and repairing relationships, and strenghening bonds of community. In these guises, the situated rhetoric of complaint plays a role not only in the provocation of organizational transformation and its resitance, but also in the acceptance and appropriation of the transformed organization. Specifically, these rituals of complaint were available to people in the Bank to help them cope with the dislocation and changes implied by the centralization and partial automation of back office clerical work.
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Why do people complain about information technology? This chapter draws from an ethnographic study of an ongoing organizational transformation in a large, British retail bank to argue that complaint about IT does not always express a desire for change or a return to the status quo ante. Sometimes it performs these expressive functions, but complaint is best understood as an interaction ritual that may also perform certain social functions. In this chapter, the authors distinguishes between two rituals of complaint about IT in the Bank -derogation and depreciation- and describes the uses of each in the organization in bringing peope together, building and repairing relationships, and strenghening bonds of community. In these guises, the situated rhetoric of complaint plays a role not only in the provocation of organizational transformation and its resitance, but also in the acceptance and appropriation of the transformed organization. Specifically, these rituals of complaint were available to people in the Bank to help them cope with the dislocation and changes implied by the centralization and partial automation of back office clerical work.

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