This research adopts an interpretive approach to understanding the social interpretations of information technology. It examines the socially constructed frames of meaning of a particular geographic information system (GIS) used in county agencies for a variety of purposes. The research attempts to define and compare the technological frames of meaning of social groups interacting with the GIS. The study is based on the theoretical works of Berger and Luckmann (1967), who view all knowledge systems to be socially constructed. This theory has been applied recently to studies of technology as knowledge systems (Biiker, Hughes and Pinch 1987). The research methodology adopts a grounded theory approach (Glaser and Strauss 1967). The present results are obtained from a pilot study designed to test and refine the research methodology. The larger study employs a comparative case analysis using an embedded research design (Yin 1984) to examine interpretations of the same technology within and across two organizations. Data were collected through fifteen open-ended interviews conducted at the pilot site. Interviews elicited the respondents' interpretations of the GIS over five dimensions of a technological frame of meaning (Orlikowski and Gash 1991): 1) assumptions about the technology, 2) problems and solutions associated with the technology, 3) social interactions in defining and resolving problems, 4) resource requirements and availability, and 5) perceived impacts of technology. Analysis of the interview data involved two stages (Strauss and Corbin 1991): developing the contents of the technological frames of meaning and comparing and contrasting these frames of meaning within and across groups in the organization. Results reveal a distinction between technical and organizational issues in the fmme of meaning. Technical issues related to software were user friendliness, digitizing accuracy, database compatibility, and file protection, while speed, memory limitations, and map making capabilities were the hardware concerns. Organizational issues relate to the coordination of accuracy requirements between different county agencies using the same database, resource limitations, lack of support from county management, and inadequate training facilities. Organizational issues are considered more significant than technical issues in the pilot site.
Sahay, Sundeep and Robey, Daniel, "SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF GEOGRAPHIC INFORMATION SYSTEMS: SOME PRELIMINARY IMPRESSIONS" (1992). ICIS 1992 Proceedings. 13.