Infrastructures for Institutional Change: Inscription and the Role of Technological Prefiguration

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Actors working to bring about institutional change increasingly leverage digital infrastructures while doing so. Ample scholarship has examined how change-oriented actors use infrastructures like social media to organize and communicate their change vision. More recently, scholars’ and practitioners’ attention has turned to new phenomena such as Blockchain and open data platforms, where institutional change efforts and technology intersect in a different way. In these cases, change-oriented actors attempt to kick-start large-scale change by inscribing their envisioned institutional logics directly into IT artefacts serving a pivotal role in institutional arrangements. While scholars have long recognized the validity of such technological inscription as an approach to institutional change, a systematic understanding of how inscription of digital infrastructures proceeds at the organizational level is currently lacking. In this conceptual paper, I synthesize literature from information systems and organizational research to develop a theory of “technological prefiguration” that illuminates this topic. The concept and associated propositions highlight a crucial but hitherto disregarded organizational challenge that institutional change efforts proceeding via inscription of digital infrastructures face. I illustrate these arguments with examples from the Blockchain space and discuss how an understanding of technological prefiguration can inform research and practice.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the Eighty-third Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management
EditorsSonia Taneja
Number of pages1
Place of PublicationBriarcliff Manor, NY
PublisherAcademy of Management
Publication date2023
Publication statusPublished - 2023
EventThe Academy of Management Annual Meeting 2023: Putting the Worker Front and Center - Boston, United States
Duration: 4 Aug 20238 Aug 2023
Conference number: 83


ConferenceThe Academy of Management Annual Meeting 2023
Country/TerritoryUnited States
Internet address
SeriesAcademy of Management Annual Meeting Proceedings

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