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Abstract

The notion of ‘entanglement’ has been central to the development of the emerging perspective on sociomateriality in organizations. But employing a metaphor of entanglement implies an ontological commitment to treat social and material agencies as empirically inseparable. This commitment to inseparability makes it very difficult to think about redesigning systems to work better because they cannot be dismantled into their component parts and re-arranged. Shifting from a metaphor of ‘engagement’ to one of ‘imbrication’ eliminates this problem because social and material agencies are seen to retain their distinctive form despite the fact that they depend on one another for the production and perpetuation of sociomaterial practices. Imbrications can be undone and remade. Thus, a designer can work with an imbricated structure in a way he or she cannot with an entangled web of practice. The result is that the metaphor of imbrication provides more possibilities for imagining design-oriented action and more opportunities for envisioning changes to technologies and organizations than does a metaphor of entanglement without sacrificing the relational ontology that makes the sociomaterial perspective so attractive to scholars.

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