Chapter

Materiality, Sociomateriality, and Socio-Technical Systems: What Do These Terms Mean? How Are They Different? Do We Need Them?

Paul M. Leonardi

in Materiality and Organizing

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199664054
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191745423 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199664054.003.0002
Materiality, Sociomateriality, and Socio-Technical Systems: What Do These Terms Mean? How Are They Different? Do We Need Them?

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This chapter reviews the history of three terms increasingly used by researchers in the fields of organization studies and information systems: “materiality,” “sociomateriality,” and “socio-technical systems.” After this review, the chapter explores ways in which these terms overlap and depart in meaning from one another in scholars' writings. The chapter suggests that materiality might be viewed as a concept that refers to properties of a technology that transcend space and time, while sociomateriality may be used to refer to the collective spaces in which people come into contact with the materiality of an artifact and produce various functions. The chapter suggests that the concept of a sociomaterial practice is akin to what socio-technical systems theorists refer to as the “technical subsystem” of an organization, or the way that people's tasks shape and are shaped by their use of machines. This technical subsystem is recursively organized alongside the social subsystem of an organization, which is characterized by an abstract set of roles, communication patterns, and so on.

Keywords: materiality; sociomateriality; socio-technical system; terminology; theory; constructivism; technology; organization

Chapter.  10377 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Organizational Theory and Behaviour

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