ICTs, Information and communication technologies, information-intensive industries
Library and Information Science
Information and communication technologies (ICTs) are reshaping many industries, often by reshaping how information is shared. Information intensive industries, by their nature, show the greatest impacts due to ICTs that enable information sharing and the bypassing of traditional information intermediaries. However, while the effects and uses of ICT are often associated with organizations (and industries), their use occurs at the individual level. In other words, it is changes to individual work related to the use of ICTs that reshape both organization and industry structures, and vice versa. To explore the relationships between individual uses of ICT and changes to organization and industry structures, we examined the residential real estate industry. Real estate is a revelatory industry for the study of ICT uses because it is information-intensive and realtors are information intermediaries between buyers and sellers. As agents, buyers and sellers increase their uses of ICT, they also change how they approach their daily work. We use structuration theory to provide an analytic perspective within this setting. Data reveal historical structures of this industry guiding the day-to-day work of agents, buyers and sellers. Many of these structures are embodied in a set of explicit contracts that reify existing structures and legitimize realtors’ actions. However, the increasing uses of ICT are simultaneously altering industry structures by subverting some of the realtors’ control over information while also reinforcing the existing contract-based structures. This structurational perspective and our findings help to explain why information intermediaries persist when technology-based perspectives would suggest their disappearance.
Crowston, K., Sawyer, S. & Wigand, R. Investigating the interplay between structure and information and communications technology in the real estate industry. Information, Technology and People, 14(2), 163–183. (This paper received a “Highly commended award”.) doi: 10.1108/09593840110695749.
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