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Abstract

Prior research on technological frames indicates that many of the difficulties associated with systems implementation stem from differences in the meanings users, managers, and system developers attribute to automation projects. Although the concept of technological frames has been used to explore the bases for intergroup conflict during implementation, it is also a useful device for probing more deeply into the effects complex systems have on users’ perceptions of their work and the role-altering effects of new technologies. Drawing upon personal construct theory and job characteristics theory, we adapted the repertory grid technique to explore the technology-in-use frames of a group of occupationally certified fingerprint technicians (FPTs). Our investigation reveals the important role the FPTs’ occupationally defined values and norms played in structuring their existing work practices and the tensions produced by organizationally mandated efforts to restructure the logic of their expertise-based hierarchies. These insights illuminate the effects work redesign had on the FPTs’ task environment, the process logic that guided specific work practices, and the roles defined by their expertise-based hierarchies, providing a basis for understanding the FPTs’ unanticipated reactions to the automation of their work.

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