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The Discourses of Appropriation: What Can We Learn From Laggards?

Lisa P. Nathan

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


In many fields, including information science, understanding the phenomena of information and communication technology (ICT) appropriation, commonly termed IT adoption or diffusion, is perceived as a continuing challenge (Dillon & Morris, 1996). A substantial portion of the research in this area has focused on identifying the characteristics of individuals who readily adopt new technologies (Agarwal & Prasad, 1999; Davis, 1989; Rogers, 2000; Venkatesh & Davis, 2000). The “early adopter” research has brought forth interesting insights and presents a dauntingly complex human practice with enticingly simple diagrams and bell curves. However, underlying this work is an assumption that adopting new technologies quickly is a positive behavior (Rogers, 2000). Is this assumption valid? A few moments spent contemplating the varied outcomes of humans’ technological history gives one pause. This pause suggests that adoption, and the speed at which someone adopts, is not a clear cut phenomenon to be given a binary label such as good or bad. In the specific area of information and communication technologies (ICTs), the problematic results of adoption range from the psychological (information overload) to the financial (fortunes spent on failed ICT initiatives). The research displayed by this poster recognizes the mixed outcomes of ICT adoption and adaptation. The project explores appropriation practices, through investigating a different category of adopter, one that previous research might have categorized a laggard, but here will be labeled a thoughtful adopter. Thoughtful adopters are those whose appropriation of technology is overtly influenced by a core set of values. What can we learn from studying individuals who are not only trying to share information and communicate with friends, family and employers in the 21st century, but are attempting to do so while remaining true to their core values of community and quality of life? The project’s overarching research question is how do individuals explicitly trying to live by a set of core values, appropriate ICTs into their lives?

This poster depicts a pilot study conducted in the spring of 2005. Project participants were members of intentional communities, people who have chosen to live together with a common purpose, to create a community that manifests a set of shared values. Intentional communities include cohousing, ecovillages, communes and urban housing cooperatives. Individuals living in intentional communities have information and communication needs similar to the rest of society. However, they are trying to meet these needs in a way that doesn’t sacrifice their core values. The balance of everyday needs against values requires careful consideration of which technologies to allow in and how to make use of them (Kirk, 2001). Intentional communities are an especially rich population for this research because they have group discussions about issues such as technology use, values, and quality of life.

The study was designed to investigate information and communication technology (ICT) appropriation using the discourse analytic method as proposed by Talja (1999). The specific unit of analysis for the project was the conversations or discourses of intentional community members, individuals who want to use technologies in a way that doesn’t conflict with their agreed upon values. Findings from this project will significantly broaden our understanding of ICT appropriation practices.

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