Exploring information systems development in English local government : a morphogenetic approach

Horrocks, Ivan (2006). Exploring information systems development in English local government : a morphogenetic approach. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000d63a


This thesis examines the complex relationships between agency (Le. populations, organised groups,individual actors and collectivities), structure (Le. systems, institutions, roles, positions), and culture(ideas, theories, beliefs and values) in the specific context of cycles of information systems (IS)development and organisational change in English local government. Data for this analysis is drawn from a 15 month longitudinal case study of an English local authority. The morphogenetic approach - anon conflationary approach to the analysis of the agency/structure dynamic devised by Margaret Archer (1988, 1995, 1998b, 1998c, 2002) - was adopted for the research in order to avoid treating either agents or structures as largely epiphenomenal to each other.

A detailed analysis of the IS environment of the case study organisation is presented. It shows how.cycles of IS development and organisational change in general were conditioned and/or shaped and transformed and/or reproduced over time by the agency/structure dynamic. The case study material also represents an example of an 'analytical history of emergence' that Archer (1995:294) proposes should result from the use of the morphogenetic approach.

Detailed evidence of the causal processes, mechanisms, powers and tendencies that may operate in any IS/organisational development context is also analysed and this then forms the basis for a range of 'tendential predictions' to be made concerning the outcomes. Another outcome (of particular significance since Archer's approach to empirical research remains limited) is a valuable assessment of the utility of the morphogenetic approach when applied to the type of largely micro level case study research reported here. This assessment confirms Archer's claims for the approach's value as an instrument for the production of non conflationary practical social theory, but, in addition, a range of issues are identified which demonstrate that, 'without modification, the complexity and resulting resource intensity of the approach may well work against its more widespread adoption for this kind of social science research.

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