The Role of Socio-technical Devices in Framing the Current Strategic Issues and Future States of the Service Market

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The aim of this paper is to inquire into the role of socio-technical devices like value metrics and accounting in organizing the service market. The authors provide a case on how such devices participates in framing the market for transportation during the introduction of large-scale bridges. In addition to the traditional role of accounting as a representation device, the authors also show how these devices participate in performing the service economy – undermining and re-drawing organizational boundaries in unexpected ways. The presence of multiple connections with socio-technical devices are then brought into an explanation of the overflowing and reconfiguration of the transportation market:
More cost control, market orientation and privatisation of transportation as framed by management accounting and control (MAC) played an important role in producing the unexpected overflow in terms of a major corporate and public expansion of transportation services. Initially, MAC became part of a controversy that paved the way for this overflowing. The decisive moment in the process being the simultaneous establishment of a new competing calculative frame, initial public offering (IPO), consisting of the capital markets for new prospective investments and a new strategic role for bridges. While MAC tended to exclude the bridges by locating them in a context outside the calculative frame it self, IPO reframed the role of bridges by including them. Calculations came to differ accordingly; MAC came to represent corporate rationalization within a given frame as defined by new market constraints imposed by the bridges once they were in place. By contrast, IPO came to represent both corporate and public expansion of transportation – in effect going along with what was already inscribed into the bridges themselves. Here, bridges acquired a strategic role in providing the decisive arguments against MAC/for expansion in due time, that is, before the opening up of bridges. As it turned out, IPO outperformed MAC and participated in the mobilisation of major public funding for corporate expansion into the international market for transportation – while framing it as part of the initial prospect of becoming more private.
Relying upon the work of Michel Callon, it is concluded that the unexpected expansion of both public and corporate service provision is closely related to the role of socio-technical devices in framing and qualifying the current strategic issues and future states of the service market.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationKøbenhavn
PublisherInstitut for Organisation og Arbejdssociologi. Handelshøjskolen i København
Number of pages30
Publication statusPublished - 2004
SeriesWorking Paper / Institut for Organisation, Copenhagen Business School

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