Gina Neff

Senior Fellow
University of Washington, US / Princeton University, US
Project Title: 
Why Technologies Fail Us: Sociological Explanations for Communication Failures
Project Abstract: 

Technology design centers on a rhetoric of industry "disruption."I argue that such thinking neglects the enduring power of social institutions like industries and organizations, andhas serious ramifications for technology adoption. Based on five years of field research and interviews on the experience of major adoptions of new information technologies in the commercial construction and the healthcare industries, I develop the theoretical argument of why technologies fail. Of course, communication and information technology tools do not roundly and routinely fail all the time and in all ways. I developthe thesis that technologies are, however, commonly misaligned between with existing practices, routines, and data structures in industries and organizations. My data shows that when faced with misaligned tools, workers socially and materially reconfigure the tools to adapt them to their practices and not their practices to fit the tools.

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