Sub-theme 37: (Re-)Assembling Routines

Luciana D’Adderio
University of Edinburgh, UK
Martha S. Feldman
University of California, USA
Kajsa Lindberg
University of Gothenburg, Sweden

Call for Papers

The increasingly uncertain and fast-changing environments in which today’s organisations operate call for a shift of attention from organisations – and organisational practices or routines – as fixed entities to the distributed (Hutchins, 1995) and situated (Suchman, 1987; Lave, 1988) dynamics by which they emerge and are constructed. Capturing how organisations learn to strike a balance between stability/coherence and change/flexibility, however, is non-trivial. It requires abandoning static views of organisation to reveal the micro-dynamics of organising, including the processes through which organisational routines and capabilities emerge and evolve.

If the first step towards a dynamic characterisation of routines entails focusing on the interaction between structure and agency (Feldman, 2000; Feldman & Pentland, 2003), a next step involves acknowledging the key role that artefacts, objects, tools and technologies play in the creation and recreation of routines and in the process(es) of organizing (Pentland & Feldman 2008; D'Adderio 2008). Artefacts can play a part in the assembling, disassembling and reassembling of practices and routines both in everyday organizational life (Nicolini, Gherardi & Yanow, 2003; Rafaeli & Pratt, 2006) and during times of disruption (Lanzara, 1983; Quinn & Worline, 2008). As "inscriptions" embodying specific configurations or patterns of actions (Barley, 1986; Callon, 1986, Akrich, 1992; Latour, 1992) and interpretations (Pinch & Bijker, 1984) they may participate in the deconstruction and reconstruction of routines as they fold and unfold.

Thus, as we scholars take routines apart conceptually, and reassemble them from the ground up, we can learn from the distributed range of artefacts and objects that are typically involved in the course of enacting a routine, including, but not limited to, tools, forms, meters, rules and procedures, computer systems, classifications, spatial arrangements (Nelson & Winter, 1982; Cohen et al., 1996; Bowker & Star, 1999; Orlikowski, 2000; Schulz, 2008; Leonardi & Barley, 2008). Focusing on how configurations of artefacts and people come together and are stabilised in recurrent but continuously challenged patterns of interaction can provide valuable insights into how organisational routines are assembled and into the dynamics of stability and change.

In our quest to explore the interplay between routines and artefacts we encourage new perspectives drawing on diverse scholarly fields including – but not limited to – Organization Science, Science and Technology Studies, Innovation Studies, Sociology, Psychology, Information Systems and Anthropology. Interdisciplinary approaches can promote a more advanced understanding of the role of artefacts in routines emergence and evolution, change and adaptation, transfer and replication. We invite theoretical and theoretically-informed empirical papers and methodological contributions that advance our understanding of the relationship between routines/practices and objects/artefacts. We are particularly interested in papers based on case studies or empirically grounded theorizing, although we also welcome more conceptual-philosophical treatments, with a possible – although not exclusive – focus on the following topics:

  • How are artefacts implicated in the production and reproduction of practices/routines?

  • What are the processes by which artefacts influence routines and practices dynamics including their emergence and persistence, transfer and replication?

  • How do artefacts stabilize practices/routines and support routinization? How do artefacts disrupt routinization?

  • What is the role that artefacts play in the evolution of practices/routines? And vice-versa, how do artefacts change as a consequence of being involved in the performance of routines?

  • What is the relationship between artefacts and human agency in the production of practices/routines? What kind of agency do artefacts exhibit?

  • Which are the different ways in which we can characterise and classify artefacts? How can different ways of theorising artefacts influence our understanding of their nature and role?

  • What methodological approaches can be used to improve our understanding of the nature and role of artefacts in practices/routines?



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Luciana D’Adderio 
Martha S. Feldman 
Kajsa Lindberg