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4 Theoretical background

4.2.2 How does technology influence organizational routines?

In the aforementioned section I sketched how imbrications can change organizational routines to produce new infrastructures. But when a technological affordance changes an organizational routine, what is then changed in that organizational routine? In the following section I will elaborate in more depth on how and what a technology changes in an organizational routine.

When a technology, like head-mounted displays, affords new ways of doing things it can create a change in an organizational routine (see step 1, Figure 9).

Importantly, this affordance is conditioned and made possible by the previous imbrication, imbrication 1. For example, the new affordance could have been prompted by a wish to reduce errors in the design process (set by one or more actors in imbrication 1, the human agency figure).

This wish or goal then leads the actors to change the technology (the square shape) by for example adding a head-mounted display to the related hardware and software. This subsequently allows the actors to instantiate a new material agency instead or as a supplement to their current material agency identified in imbrication 1. In turn, the imbrication allows for an affordance to emerge.

This affordance, and the technology that facilitates this affordance, can then potentially be enrolled and retained in the organizational routine.

Thesis 67

Figure 9: How an affordance changes an organizational routine.

The following step, step 2 in Figure 9, shows how a human (e.g. an architect) and a technology (e.g. a head-mounted display) and their agency can afford performances and be enrolled in the ostensive pattern of an organizational routine in the following two ways. First, by performing new affordances that have not previously been recognized as part of that organizational routine, the human and the material can together create a new ostensive pattern that supplements or replaces existing ostensive pattern(s). Second, a human, a technology and their agency can also choose to modify an existing ostensive pattern. This occurs when actors perform new types of variations that modify the existing actions of an ostensive pattern. This new or modified variation, made possible by the human, the technology, and their agency, can then become retained in the ostensive pattern of the organizational routine if this ostensive pattern can help the actors to make sense of their current performances, legitimize past performances, and/or help them guide future performances (see step 3 in Figure 9).

To elaborate further, new performances can be created when for instance an architect starts to use a head-mounted display because she has an intention to reduce errors when designing new buildings. This can for example be the case if the head-mounted display fulfills her intention by allowing her to look around in a natural manner, one of the criteria for immersion. Further, if other participants recognize the mounted display, and its affordance of looking around, the head-mounted display is retained in the ostensive pattern of the organizational design routine. And if successful enough, the head-mounted display might completely replace the existing performances

Thesis 68 and ostensive patterns of the organizational design routine. The architects and the head-mounted display, as well as the other technologies the head-mounted display is connected to, have then created a new organizational design routine because the existing ostensive pattern(s) have all been replaced by this new way of designing using a head-mounted display.

Furthermore, the affordance can also become part of an already existing ostensive pattern – which is the most likely scenario as it is uncommon not to use any parts or steps of an existing organizational routine. In these cases, the affordance of looking around using a head-mounted display is selected and retained in an existing ostensive pattern of for example an organizational design routine. The ostensive pattern, of which the architect and the head-mounted display are a part, is therefore likely to be one of more ostensive patterns of the organizational design routine.

For example, it might be the case that the architects and engineers see the ostensive pattern, of which the head-mounted display is a part, as one of many alternative ways to design a house. If so, there might exist other ostensive patterns, of which the head-mounted display might not be a part, as it is normal for many different ostensive patterns to coexist. One such ostensive pattern could for example involve the use of only physical models and traditional monitors.

In either case, the affordance that is now part of an ostensive pattern, needs to be able to help the actors to make sense of their current performances, legitimize past performances, and/or help them to guide future performances. The following three examples illustrate how the actors should be able to use an ostensive pattern. First, actors should be able to use the ostensive pattern to make sense of their current performances. Following the aforementioned example, if architects and engineers start to use a head-mounted display, instead of a traditional monitor, with the intention to reduce errors when designing buildings, the affordance of looking around by moving one’s head modifies their existing ostensive pattern of the organizational design routine, thus becoming part of it. In turn, if this new ostensive pattern helps them to make sense of their current performances by immersing them in 3D models of buildings and, as a result, identify more errors, the ostensive pattern might be maintained. Furthermore, if they can retrospectively make sense of and legitimize these actions, to themselves and others, the ostensive pattern might also be reused and thus maintained. And lastly, if they can prospectively see it as a relevant tool for identifying more errors in the future, this might also lead them to maintain the pattern.

If the ostensive pattern cannot help them to execute one or more of these “functions”, the actors, in the organizational routine, might identify the affordance as a constraint and end up not repeating, not recognizing, and thus not maintaining the ostensive pattern. This can ultimately

Thesis 69 lead the actors of the organizational routine to not identifying the new/modified ostensive pattern as being part of the organizational routine. I will elaborate on this in the next section.