8.1.3 Taking immersive technologies’ ripples of variation into account
When the agencies of immersive technologies and organizational routines imbricate, the two studies show that it is important to take their mutual influence into account not only within the imbricated organizational routine but also between organizational routines. This is important because it helps to understand whether or not the immersive technologies and their affordances are retained in any given ostensive pattern they have become part of and thus explains how the
Thesis 170 matter and form of immersive technologies, for example head-mounted displays and its related software and hardware, imbricate with organizational routines.
The actors in the organizational routines should consider how more immersive technology creates ripples of variation not only within but also between organizational routines. That is, the longitudinal case showed that decisions made in one organizational routine could condition imbrications in other routines. To exemplify: in imbrication 3 and 4 of the internal organizational design routine, their main reason for acquiring and enrolling a more immersive technology in the organizational routine was the wish expressed by one of the partner architects to communicate their ideas clearly and effectively to non-professional clients and users, in the external organizational meeting routine, in order to avoid misunderstandings, among other things. To accommodate this wish, however, they also had to change the internal organizational design routine, as the subsequent imbrications show. In particular, in order to prepare for client and user meetings, they had to produce content for the head-mounted display and once done with the meeting, they also had to incorporate the feedback into their 3D models. In short, in order to explain why immersive technologies are sometimes enrolled in an organizational routine but at other times are not, it is important to consider more than the routine in question.
Furthermore, once an immersive technology was enrolled in the organizational routine, the study shows that it influenced not only the organizational routine in which it was enrolled but also the other organizational routine. And this influence across organizational routines further affected not only whether or not the more immersive technology was enrolled in the first place but also if it was retained in the ostensive patterns of both organizational routines. Thus, to understand why the head-mounted display did not completely replace the existing less immersive technologies in the organizational meeting routine, but “merely” complemented them, it is important to consider not only its influence in the organizational routine in which it is enrolled, but also how its use influences the other internal organizational design routine.
To exemplify: when the more advanced head-mounted display and a new plug-in were enrolled in the organizational meeting routine (imbrication 7 and 8), it initially helped them to make the clients and users understand the depth and scale of 3D models in an intuitive way, in turn easing communication between the meeting participants. However, as it was used in the organizational meeting routine, they experienced that the feedback from the meeting participants became more comprehensive and less focused because they understood more, but also because the architects and engineers could not guide them or point out where the clients and users should focus. Thus,
Thesis 171 because of the affordances that the immersive technologies provided to their users, they could now discover issues in a more intuitive way.
However, due to the materiality of the head-mounted display they could not be guided by the architects and engineers. In turn, the feedback was often not relevant at that specific time of the project or was simply just irrelevant to the project as a whole. On the one hand, while the architects and engineers could simply disregard this feedback, it might, in time, also lead to a loss of trust between the parties. On the other hand, making 3D models of every design suggestion that clients came up with required that they had to do much work in the organizational design routine.
Consequently, they decided to use these more immersive technologies mindfully and only when it was relevant to the clients and users to understand the 3D models in a more intuitive way. That is, because the immersive technology variations were diffused from the external to the internal organizational routine, the technology’s role in both routines was reduced – despite the benefits provided by its immersive capabilities. Thus, whether or not a technology is retained in an ostensive pattern not only depends on the organizational routine in which it is enrolled but also on the other organizational routines on which the technology depends.
In summary, the findings from both the exploratory and the longitudinal studies show the following important points. First, the materiality of head-mounted displays conditions their users in certain predictable ways across contexts. Second, whether or not immersion is achieved depends very much on the context, which emphasizes immersion relational characteristics. Third, because head-mounted displays condition performances in predictable ways, this inflexibility needs to be taken into account in the existing infrastructure of technologies and organizational routines. To be more precise, whether or not an immersive technology is enrolled in, the organizational routines depends to a large degree on the existing infrastructure of previous and current technology and organizational routines. And once an immersive technology is enrolled, whether or not it remains a viable alternative for the actors in the organizational routine depends on the flexibility of the immersive technology itself as well as the surrounding infrastructure.
Fourth and lastly, the actors in the organizational routines should consider how more immersive technology creates ripples of variations not only within but also between organizational routines.
Together, these four findings are important in order to understand how the matter and form of immersive technologies, for example head-mounted displays and its related software and hardware, imbricate with organizational routines.
Thesis 172 With these findings in mind, in the following section I will elaborate on and discuss how they contribute to research on organizational routines and IS literature on immersive technologies.
Following that, I initially discuss the merits of the imbrication lens in relation to not only the socio-technical and (other) sociomaterial approaches, but also its potentially blind spots compared to other approaches in the aforementioned literature streams. The discussion is concluded by a presentation of contributions to practitioners within the AEC industry.
In the following sections I will elaborate on how this study contribute to organizational routines research, to research on immersive technologies, and lastly to practice.