When is a workaround? Conflict & negotiation in computer systems development
The notion of a ‘work-around’ is a much used resource within the sociology of technology, reflecting an interest in showing how users are not simply shaped by technologies but how through adopting artefacts in ways other than for which they were designed or intended are also shapers of technology. Using the language and concerns of actor network theory, and focusing on recent developments within computer systems implementation, this article seeks to explore and add to our understanding of work-arounds through unpacking the work of one group of ‘users’ as they attempt to tailor and roll-out a system within the administration departments of their university. The argument is made that paying attention to the various networks which lead to and from work-arounds can improve our understanding of the way users both shape and are shaped by technologies. Focusing on work-arounds as ‘networks-in-place’ also allows us to highlight some of their contingencies; i.e., the other actors and entities on which these depend and are constituted.