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Digital ICTs: Driver or vehicle of organisational change?

TitleDigital ICTs: Driver or vehicle of organisational change?
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2007
AuthorsPeacock, D.
Secondary TitleInternational Cultural Heritage Informatics Meeting - ICHIM07: Proceedings
Conference Start DateOctober 24-26
PublisherArchives & Museum Informatics
Place PublishedToronto, Ontario, Canada
EditorTrant, J., & Bearman D.
Keywordscultural heritage organisations, digital ICT, organisational change, technology, theory

This paper aims to stimulate discussion about the nature of technology-related organisational change and how it is managed within cultural heritage organisations. How we think about and understand change affects our ability to plan, shape and direct it. Drawing on perspectives from sociology, management and organisation theory, as well as information systems, this paper explores how we might understand and better manage change within the cultural heritage sector arising from the use of digital ICTs. I advocate the conscious use of theory, particularly organisational theory, to enable us to see our organisations and the challenge of change represented by technology in new ways. Organisational theory provides a rich source of insights about the nature of change that have so far been lacking in the discussion of digital cultural heritage. Theoretical models of the interaction between organisations and technology have however tended to promote a mechanical concept of technology as an irresistible deterministic force, undermining the idea of organisational and individual agency. More recent approaches emerging from the social constructivist perspective emphasise the role of organisations in shaping the outcomes of technology. Theories based in social constructivism help us to understand that the outcomes of organisational use of digital technologies are neither fixed nor predictable. People and organisations shape technology; technology shapes organisations and professional practices. The changes wrought by digital ICTs are mediated and to some degree at least constructed by organisational choices, cultures and dynamics. Using a range of theoretical perspectives and associated metaphors, we can begin to understand the multi-faceted nature of organisational change related to technology and how, as practitioners and managers, we can shape new practices, structures and objectives with that technology. The paper concludes with seven recommendations for action.