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Mechanisms of technology affordance actualization: critical realist case studies of information systems in Saudi Arabian SMEs

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posted on 24.11.2020, 08:49 by Albayan Alraddadi
Affordance actualization (AA) is a process through which organizations realize their IT potentials. The extant IS literature on affordances has mainly focused on theorizing the existence and perception of affordances; the actualization process remains understudied and undertheorized. To address this gap, this research investigates the process of affordance actualization and unpacks the mechanisms that explain how and why affordance actualization has evolved in the small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) context.
Critical realist philosophical assumptions were adopted to identify and analyse the causal paths through which technology affordances are successfully realized. Three case studies were carried out in Saudi Arabian SMEs through two phases: exploratory and explanatory. The data collection methods comprised semi-structured interviews, participant observation, and a review of organizational documentation. Findings from the case studies were used to develop a mechanism-based explanation of the affordance actualization process to address the question: ‘How does affordance actualization occur in SMEs?’
The theory of affordance actualization and the theory of workarounds were integrated to account for various actualization actions and outcomes. Three types of actualization actions were identified: planned actions; workarounds; and assessments and alterations. The actualization actions, enacted at the individual level, collectively contribute to produce actualization outcomes at the organizational level. These outcomes correspond to the actualization actions and broadly involve enabling organizational changes and goals.
This research contributes to the IS literature on affordances in two ways. First, the research develops a SME-specific AA process that demonstrates the two-level dynamics of actualization actions and outcomes. Second, the research identifies four sets of contextual conditions that contingently determine the outcomes of the affordance actualization process for SMEs. These conditions are classified according to their influence on AA process, including: restraining conditions; enabling conditions; stimulating conditions; and releasing conditions. The findings from this research also provide practical implications for SME managers and practitioners to succeed in actualizing technology affordances through improving affordance potency and locality and reducing affordance dependency.



  • Business and Economics


  • Business


Loughborough University

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© Albayan Salah Alraddadi

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.




Ravishankar Mayasandra Nagaraja ; Andrea Lagna ; Donna Champion

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