C16. Rice, R.E. (1991). Organic organizations and centralized units: Use, contexts, and outcomes of word processing. In J. Morell & M. Fleischer (Eds.), Advances in implementation and impact of computer systems, 1, 111-141. NY: JAI Press.

Early analyses of the impact of computers in organizations argued quite strongly that technology has a direct, unmediated effect (whether positive or negative) on users, applications, organizations and even societies. These studies concluded that implementing mainframe computers for transaction processing directly led to increased centralization and job fragmentation. There are at least two troubling assumptions of this thesis of technological determinism. The first is that technology is an autonomous force that independently causes impacts. The second is that the same impacts should follow from the same technologies, regardless of different contexts.

Of the many aspects of structure, this study will focus on work unit centralization. We argue that structure at the work unit level is a critical contextual influence on the relationship between technology and outcomes, because this particular technology is located in the workunit, implementation takes place at the workunit, tasks are more similar within than across workunits, and considerable interpersonal (supervisory & peer) communication takes place in the workunit. Further, past research provides convincing evidence that organizational structure interacts with other organizational variables to influence attitudes and behaviors.

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