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Essays on an Ecological Approach to User-Technology Interaction


Essays on an Ecological Approach to User-Technology Interaction

Mesgari, Mostafa (2016) Essays on an Ecological Approach to User-Technology Interaction. PhD thesis, Concordia University.

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This thesis consists of three essays that propose an ecological approach to look into various aspects of user-technology interaction. The overarching theme of the thesis is the role of the technological artifact in how technology is understood and adapted by users in organizations. Organizing is the social process of achieving goals, and it is always tied to the way people understand and adapt to their environment, including the information technology in that environment. The way people make sense of new technology in organizations and adapt it into their work routines brings extensive consequences to organizations. Despite the extensive body of literature examining the social and cognitive aspects of user sensemaking and adaptation to technology, there is little known about the role of the technological artifact in shaping user sensemaking and adaptation to new technology.
The first essay reviews and synthesizes the extant literature on how people understand technological phenomena in organizations. Then it highlights the three shortcomings of existing sensemaking research: the neglect of the role of the IT artifact, of the discovery part of perception, and of the role of the individual action. There is limited understanding on the role that the material artifact plays in shaping users’ sensemaking of new technology, as well as how users’ actions affect their sensemaking. Moreover, the literature mostly neglects the discovery aspect of sensemaking, that is, the perception of the meaning already available rather than creating new meaning to rationalize users’ experiences. To address these issues, this essay provides a thorough review of literature on organization-technology sensemaking and synthesizes our current understanding of the phenomenon. Then it analyzes the major shortcomings in our knowledge and highlights the need to address those shortcomings. It subsequently discusses an ecological approach consistent with the tenets of critical realism that can address some of the existing shortcomings. The paper also offers some key implications of the ecological approach for research and practice.
The second essay addresses the role of the technological artifact in shaping users’ understanding of technology (i.e. technology sensemaking). It proposes an ecological approach to technology sensemaking that focuses on the relation between users’ perception of technology and the technological features to which they adapt. Moreover, it advances Information Systems (IS) research by providing new conceptual and analytical tools to examine the role of the IT artifact in IS research. To empirically illustrate the proposed approach and suggested methodology, we report the findings of an empirical study that applies and validates the framework.
The third essay focuses on the patterns of user adaptation to the technological artifact to contribute to research on user-centred system development. For more than a decade, the persona technique has been used in interface design practices to put user needs and preferences at the centre of all development decisions. A persona is a fictional character that represents potential users and what they want to accomplish. Persona development teams draw on qualitative or quantitative user data to develop representative personas. Despite the benefits of both approaches, qualitative methods are limited mostly by the cognitive capabilities of the persona developers, whereas quantitative methods lack contextual richness. To gain the advantages of both approaches, this essay suggests a mixed-methods approach to create user personas based on the patterns of affordances they actualize, rather than merely on the actions they take. It enriches personas by referring to the purposes fulfilled through affordance actualizations and grounds personas in readily available objective log data. This essay illustrates the practical value of the proposed methodology by empirically creating personas based on real user data. It also creates quantitative-only personas, presents independently developed qualitative-only personas, and compares them to the affordance-based personas to demonstrate the advantages of the suggested method.
The three essays together suggest and empirically illustrate an ecological approach to examine the role of the IT artifact in users’ sensemaking of and adaptation to new technology. They contribute to research and practice by a) proposing the theoretical and analytical tools needed to examine users’ sensemaking of technology in relation to their adaptation to the IT artifact, and b) suggesting the mixed-methods technique to create user personas based on the patterns of affordance actualization by users.

Divisions:Concordia University > John Molson School of Business > Supply Chain and Business Technology Management
Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Authors:Mesgari, Mostafa
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:Ph. D.
Program:Business Administration (Supply Chain and Business Technology Management specialization)
Date:21 July 2016
Thesis Supervisor(s):Okoli, Chitu
ID Code:981689
Deposited On:09 Nov 2016 14:04
Last Modified:20 Mar 2019 15:13
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