In recent years, more researchers and practitioners realize the uses and consequences of information technology are often enacted through self-orchestrated interactions among users, technologies, and institutional properties rather than dictated by organizational policies or managerial intentions. To further investigate the pattern, the paper aims to build a theoretical framework based on the concepts and the analytical tool of complex adaptive systems (CAS) theory.
Conceptualization of IT Use
There are four essential attributes of the IT use construct. IT use involves users, IT artifacts and work activities as its key elements. The behaviors and consequences are shaped by recurrent interactions within and between different elements of IT use. IT use processes operate at multiple levels linked by bottom-up or top-down processes. Time is a significant factor.
A Complex Adaptive Systems Model of IT Use
Theory of complex adaptive systems
Complex adaptive systems are defined as “systems composed of interacting agents described in terms of rules. The agents adapt by changing their rules as experience accumulates”. Three are three main components in the framework: agent, interaction and environment. They also have their own properties.
Extending the theory of CAS to the IT use context
The CAS model of IT use is premised on the multilevel, interactive, and dynamic nature of the IT use construct. It is developed to provide a theoretical lens for examining the process whereby individual-level IT use behaviors collaboratively create collective-level IT use patterns and outcomes.
- Agent: human actors, IT features
- Interaction: user-system interactions, interpersonal interactions
Using the CAS Model of IT Use
Based on the Zeta case and the CAS framework, the author designs the agent-based modeling by specifying the conceptual definition for each element, including the roles and learning process of Zeta employees, the ITSS (incident tracking support system) and its feature, interactions between users and users, interactions between users and the system, requirements of the customer support work and the IT-based transformation.
- Implications for theory: The CAS model can offer advancements of the three dominant theories of IT use
- Implications for methodology: Agent-based modeling contributes to interpretive case studies by providing an analytically precise and consistent method for describing and comparing qualitative observations from the field.