Learning by Doing


Because existing models were not able to account effectively for ongoing changes in both technologies and their use, Wanda Orlikowski conducted a research on technology in organizations, highlighting the acute model’s insufficiency in the context of internet work and reconfigurable technology, such as groupware and the Web.

As ‘both technologies and organizations are undergoing dramatic changes in form and function’,  the author argues that a specific technology use enables a peculiar and innovative process that allows organizations to understand social practices as they’re shaping the resources’ role in the workplace in a recursive interaction between people, technologies and social action.

Former models and structurational perspectives on technology have benefited from social constructivist ideas:  interpretations, social interests, and disciplinary conflicts shape the production of a technology through shaping its cultural meanings and the social interactions among relevant social groups. But these models depict technologies as "stabilized" after development.  On the contrary, empirical research shows that people modify technologies and their conceptions of technology long after design and development.

Wanda’s research shows that human interaction with technologies is recurrent, so users constitute a technology-in-practice through their present use of a technology.

Their actions are at the same time shaped by the previous technologies-in-practice they have enacted in the past. Her practice lens focuses on human agency and the open-ended set of emergent structures that may be enacted through recurrent use of a technology with ongoing accomplishments.


Orlikowski, W.J. "Using technology and constituting structures: A practice lens for studying technology in organizations" Organization Science (11:4) 2000, pp 404-428.


  1. Really interesting idea regarding models of interactive technologies as destabilized, fluid, and shifting within contexts of learning. It seems to me that we lack language to fully describe such models. A key challenge for research on hybridity and relationships among humans and the new social media that is shaping us as we shape it is to develop a vocabulary to adequately described these nuanced, post-structuralist new models.swildwood

  2. Raphaëlle LAUBIE on

    Thank you Tom,Well, as we’re dealing with human agency, why not focusing on human behavior and what we already know about it? Even if we’re in an IT field?Learning or creating a behavioral change was studied by Pavlov and Skinner: the classical conditioning and operant conditioning.Pavlov’s experiences (1890) show that when two stimuli are associated – unconditioned and conditioned stimuli – action can be triggered by the unconditioned stimulus.Skinner (1904-1990) brings a different concept of Pavlovian conditioning: the operant conditioning. Behavior will depend on its positive consequences for the organization. I think Wanda is pointing the operant conditioning in this paper…Skinner’s theory there: http://webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/skinner.html

  3. Raphaelle,I appreciate your take on operant conditioning and Pavlovian models of learning. I certainly think they have value, However, I also believe that those views of learning may not be adequate when thinking about how IT and humans are interacting. Timescales have been accelerated as the speed and volume of information and responses increase exponentially within organizations and on interpersonal levels. Multimodal texts and nodes of information that require a more associative and non-linear way constructing meaning seem to push our understanding to how organizations develop beyond operant conditioning to something more fluid–rhizomatic perhaps?Tom

  4. Raphaëlle LAUBIE on

    Rhizome approach is very interested indeed. Thank you for bringing this concept. Although I have no expertise about it, I’d like to raise the question about learning or conditioning when it comes to it. ;) Surely a current issue…

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