Don’t throw rocks from the side-lines: A sociomaterial exploration of organizational blogs as boundary objects

Daniel, Elizabeth; Hartnett, Elizabeth and Meadows, Maureen (2017). Don’t throw rocks from the side-lines: A sociomaterial exploration of organizational blogs as boundary objects. Information Technology & People, 30(3) pp. 542–561.



Purpose Social media such as blogs are being widely used in organizations in order to undertake internal communication and share knowledge, rendering them important boundary objects. A root metaphor of the boundary object domain is the notion of relatively static and inert objects spanning similarly static boundaries. A strong sociomaterial perspective allows the immisciblity of object and boundary to be challenged, since a key tenet of this perspective is the ongoing and mutually-constituted performance of the material and social.

Design/methodology/approach The aim of our research is to draw upon sociomateriality to explore the operation of social media platforms as intra-organizational boundary objects. Given the novel perspective of this study and its social constructivist ontology, we adopt an exploratory, interpretivist research design. This is operationalized as a case study of the use of an organizational blog by a major UK government department over an extended period. A novel aspect of the study is our use of data released under a Freedom of Information request.

Findings We present three exemplar instances of how the blog and organizational boundaries were performed in the situated practice of the case study organization. We draw on literature on boundary objects, blogs and sociomateriality in order to provide a theoretical explication of the mutually-constituted performance of the blog and organizational boundaries. We also invoke the notion of ‘extended chains of intra-action’ to theorise changes in the wider organization.

Originality/value Adoption of a sociomaterial lens provides a highly novel perspective of boundary objects and organizational boundaries. The study highlights the indeterminate and dynamic nature of boundary objects and boundaries, with both being in an intra-active state of becoming, challenging conventional conceptions. The study demonstrates that specific material-discursive practices arising from the situated practice of the blog at the respective boundaries were performative, reconfiguring the blog and boundaries and being generative of further changes in the organization.

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