Kalle Lyytinen

Local-Global Dialectics of Infrastructural Standards: The Experience of Implementing RDS-TMC Messaging Standards in Swedish Road-Administration

One prominent challenge in developing digital infrastructures is how to balance the tension between the universal character of the(language/information) standards and the diverse and changing local needs. Most current solutions and debates prefer to side with meeting the local needs. This approach, however, leads to a conundrum as it reaps all the benefits of having a universal information infrastructure.  To understand how this challenge can be potentially addressed, we examine through a longitudinal case study Swedish Road Administration’s (SRA) attempts to mitigate tensions that arose when two messaging standards - Alert-C and Location Code - were implemented to deliver a successful Pan-European traffic service called RDS-TMC. We conduct a dialectic analysis of SRA’s balancing acts to overcome three language tensions related to global-local dialectics denoted as: “Identification Ambiguity”, “Representational Limitation”, and “Relevance Distortion” tension.  We follow how socio-technical maneuvers were carried out over a period of a decade by standardization bodies, SRA, and local actors which included standard modifications and extensions, new agreements and guidelines on how information objects referred in service messages are identified, creation of routines that systematize production of RDS-TMC messages, and development of IT functionalities to support and enable those routines. By carefully honing such adaptation capabilities SRA became successful in balancing the language tensions, which led to the subsequent growth of the RDS-TMC service. Based on our analysis, we formulate a more generic model that delineates how organizations can balance global-local tensions while implementing infrastructural standards.

Kalle Lyytinen (PhD, Computer Science, University of Jyvaskyla; Dr. h.c. from Umeå University) is Iris S. Wolstein professor at Case Western Reserve University, a CIIR professor at University of Umeå, Sweden and a visiting professor at London School of Economics, U.K..  He is currently Associate Dean of Research and the Academic Director of the Doctor of Management Programs at Weatherhead School of Management. Between 1992 and 2012 he was the 3rd most productive scholar in the IS field when measured by the AIS basket of 8 journals; he is currently among the 5 most cited scholars in the IS field based on his adjusted h-index (67). He is LEO Award recipient (2013), AIS fellow (2004), and the former chairperson of IFIP WG 8.2. He has published around 300 refereed articles and edited or written nearly 20 books or special issues on the nature of IS discipline, system design, method engineering, computer supported cooperative work, standardization, ubiquitous computing, social networks. He recently edited a special issue to Organization Science on digital innovation and has recently finished a special issue to MISQ on social communications and symbolic aspects of information systems and a special issue to ISR on the Information Technology and Future of Work. He is currently editing a special to MISQ on digitally enabled innovation. He is involved in research that explores IT induced radical innovation in software development, digitalization of complex design processes, requirements discovery and modeling for large scale systems, and digital infrastructures especially for mobile services.


Robin Williams

Analysing the uneven contours of information infrastructure innovation

A growing body of research findings allows our enquiry into information infrastructures (II) to move beyond case-studies of particular moments/contexts of II development and use to explore both longitudinal developments and systematic differences surrounding II development across different settings.  Thus e-research infrastructures appear to present rather different challenges to IIs in health service delivery. This paper draws lessons from the papers published in the recent special edition of the Journal of the Association for Information Systems (Vol. 14, Issue 4/5, 2014) and from an ongoing study of hospital electronic prescribing and medicine administration (HEPMA) systems.

The development and longer-term sustainability of Health IIs seem to present particular challenges. On the one hand we find huge investments geared towards expectations of significant improvements in quality, safety and efficiency of service. On the other we find recurrent patterns of difficulty and failure. These have in turn been attributed to a long list of factors including – the huge scale of operations (UK Connecting for Health cost c$20bn); the growing range of functions and users encompassed; the complexity of health interventions; the multiplicity of professional expertise; the difficulties for providers in meeting demands for service innovation/differentiation from health practitioners; the inhibition of innovation by the inflexible regime for managing such sensitive and safety critical information exchange.  However, this is not an Iron Law. Within this sector we find instances of ‘generativity’ in which local innovations have been more widely taken up.  Elsewhere (eg HEPMA in the UK) we find a clash between local customisation pressures and attempts to develop and deploy generic packaged solutions. How can we understand this complex and contradictory pattern?

Robin Williams is a Professor of Science, Technology and Innovation Studies at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and director of the Institute for the Study of Science, Technology and Innovation. His research focuses on the social shaping of technology, highlighting the influence of a variety of actors on the design, implementation and use of ICT.  A major concern has been with enterprise systems and other large, complex information infrastructures. The biography of Artefacts perspective he is developing with Neil Pollock and other colleagues explores the co-evolution of technologies, practices and institutional arrangements. Another strand of research examines the role of interoperability standards in the emergence of new ICT infrastructures such as mobile broadband, and how China has become a global player alongside Europe and the USA.


David Ribes

The Matter of Infrastructures: Establishing Viral Load in AIDS Science

With the increasing circulation of digital data, have scientists left the material world behind? This presentation will examine a controversy amongst AIDS scientists in order to demonstrate that we need holistic analyses of infrastructure: we should focus simultaneously on their informational features and their ability to mobilize entangled material resources. In 1995, scientists from the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study

(MACS) asserted a relationship between the number of HIV particles in the blood — known as viral load — and progression to AIDS. But other scientists questioned this link by challenging the integrity of the materials, data and instruments that MACS scientists had used to make their arguments. What followed was an impressive mobilization of a research infrastructure, as thousands of vials of archived blood were pulled from cold storage and tested, and as associated metadata were placed under aggressive scrutiny. The MACS is an information infrastructure, facilitating access to data, but it also supports the preservation and circulation of materials, such as blood, and ensures the calibration of the instruments that translate materials into data.

Materials, instruments, data and scientific expertise are entangled: the epistemic force of a research infrastructure cannot be grasped by focusing solely on its informational aspects, it can only be understood by examining all its resources simultaneously.

David Ribes is assistant professor in the Communication, Culture and Technology (CCT) Program at Georgetown University. He is a sociologist of science who focuses on the development and sustainability of research infrastructures (i.e., networked information technologies for the support of interdisciplinary science); their relation to long-term changes in the conduct of science; and, epistemic transformations in objects of research.  David has a degree in Sociology, but the field of Science and Technology Studies (STS) is his first affiliation. His methods are ethnographic, archival and comparative. See davidribes.com for more.


Jannis Kallinikos

Social Media Platforms as Information Infrastructures

Social media or social networking platforms are increasingly becoming a widely diffused mode by which people access the Web and interact with other people. Social media platforms have predominantly been conceived as technology-driven congregations of widely dispersed and heterogeneous populations of individuals. They have accordingly been studied from the viewpoint of online social activities and relationships users build around personal or common interests and projects. Such an understanding of social media platforms is both fascinating and problematic. It is fascinating as far as it can cast light on patterns of online sociality and the ways by means of which users enact social technologies. But is also problematic as far it assumes social media platforms to be flat, neutral spaces on which users can skate freely in any direction they like. I propose to draw on the literature on information infrastructures to understand the dynamics of social media platforms and lay open some of the premises on the basis of which users interact with technological media and other users. But I would also like to draw on research on social media platforms to explore the social embedment of information infrastructures and possibly enrich the understanding of information infrastructures as socio-technical arrangements.

Jannis Kallinikos is an organization and communication scholar and intellectual. Kallinikos is currently a professor in the Information Systems and Innovation Group, Department of Management at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). His scholarly projects have over the years covered several themes ranging from the significance writing and notation has assumed in the making of modern organizations through the understanding of markets as semiotic systems to the study of bureaucracy and institutions. His concerns have recently shifted to the investigation of the conditions associated with the penetration of the social and economic fabric by technological information. Kallinikos calls this emerging socio-economic environment, marked by the ubiquitous presence of the Internet, information-based services and software-mediated culture, the habitat of information. The term indicates that the growing involvement of information in society, economy and culture is associated with important changes in the ways institutions operate as well as shifts in behavioural, cognitive and communicative habits.


Published May 12, 2014 9:54 PM - Last modified Sep. 26, 2014 8:35 AM