Scandinavian Journal of Information Systems


The current paper addresses one of the core yet complex issues in the study of technology in organizations: the relationship between the social and the material. Many scholars in the field of Information Systems have used the notion of affordance as a lens to investigate and theorize this relationship. However, knowledge contributions in this area are often abstract and impractical, or at least compel further conceptual development. This paper uses a relational view of affordances to study organizational social media affordances based on empirical data collected about the use of the Wiki technology at two large multinational organizations—CCC and IBM. It theorizes four key mechanisms—referring to other affordances (referential), collectively enacting significant affordances (communal), situation-dependent exploitation of affordances (situatedness), and exploiting other opportunities for action (multiplicity), that embody the interaction between the social and the material. These mechanisms make up what is labelled in this paper as ‘the affordances apparatus’. The apparatus provides a conceptual structure for the interaction between social and material features that shows operational dynamics and processes underpinning the perception, enactment and exploitation of affordances. This apparatus is the main contribution of the paper in that it gives researchers a conceptual tool for investigating affordances as relational constructs between the social and the material. It also helps in understanding how people navigate the use of technology features relative to their intentions and goals.