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Communication Regimes: A conceptual framework for examining IT and social change in organizations

Eric T. Meyer

Sparking Synergies: Bringing Research and Practice Together @ ASIST '05 (ASIS&T 2005)
Westin Charlotte, Charlotte, North Carolina, October 28 - November 2, 2005


This paper defines and extends the concept of a communication regime, introduced to information science by the late Rob Kling, by identifying the concept’s origins and offering a five element definition that will allow further research using this framework. Communication regimes have been applied to understanding scholarly scientific communication regimes as various groups struggled to maintain power and influence while creating online databases of articles. The terminology used here originates in political science, where ‘regimes’ were introduced as a scholarly concept and regime theory has been a major research stream since the 1970s. In translating these concepts for information science, however, much of the original meaning can be maintained and fruitfully applied. In doing so, the author outlines the five element definition and illustrates each point using examples from photojournalism as a communication regime undergoing change as digital photography has become the primary means of creating photographic content. A communication regime is: 1) a loosely coupled social network in which the communication and the work system are highly coupled; 2) a system with a set of implicit or explicit principles, norms, rules, and decision-making procedures around which actors’ expectations converge; 3) a system in which the types of communication are tightly coupled to the production system in which they are embedded; 4) a system with institutions which help to support and to regulate the regime; and 5) a system within which there are conflicts over control, over who enforces standards, over who bears the costs of change and who reaps the benefits of change. The paper concludes by suggesting other areas where a communication regime framework may provide useful for understanding the relationship between information technology and social change.

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