Extending Social Constructivism with Institutional Theory: A Broadband Civic Networking Case
Springer London, Dordrecht Amsterdam
A longitudinal study of broadband civic network design is analyzed using social construction of technology (SCOT) approach and then through the lens of institutional theory. SCOT is useful to show how artifacts take on the forms they do; institutional theory, by locating (design) action in a cultural, historical and structural context can complement SCOT by explaining why they tend to assume certain forms. Broadband civic networking initiatives often have mixed goals: ensuring financial viability and realizing normative social aims. In the present case, this tension was resolved by fitting the network’s technological and social form to a criterion of legitimacy prevailing among power centers in the broader field; this succeeded in eliciting necessary financial resources to sustain the network, but at the expense of the project’s normative aims. Institutional approaches theorize the relation of cultural ideas and social structure, and that of structure and social action, to interrogate micro-politics of social constructions and the (intended/unintended) forms they assume. To engage the Why question, constructivists need to theorize action. Sociological institutional theory offers pointers.