Accessibility statement

Negotiating needs and negotiating uses: technology acquisition as a process of consumption

This project develops a new approach to the study of the acquisition and implementation of information technology (IT) into organisations by analysing it as a process of consumption. The project combines and develops perspectives taken from the sociology of consumption, feminist analyses of technology and organisations and social studies of technology.

The objective has been to determine how users respond to new IT systems, how they come to define their value over time and how these evaluations are reflected, if at all, in system designers' and purchasers' assumptions about user needs. This has been done through a comparative study of the acquisition of management information systems in three distinct organisational contexts: a set of hospital labs, a national UK retailer and a British university.

The research has examined the ways in which technology acquisition and implementation form a process that is locally mediated and extended in time. We suggest that particular aspects of organisational life are significant in mediating the processes studied. These factors include: gender norms and identity, organisational cultures, and professional knowledge and skill.

Key conclusions to the study include:

  • Technological and organisational change develop out of a complex relationship among different users, technology and the power relations within an organisation.
  • The introduction of a new technology does lead to changes in an organisation and in working practices but not without the technology also changing as it becomes part of the cultural life of the organisation.
  • Wider social, economic and political imperatives are shaped and find meaning within local contexts.
  • Users play an important, but regulated, part in the construction of sometimes contested and competing identities for themselves, the organisation and the technology.
  • Valuing technology incorporates valuing certain key gender, knowledge and cultural values.  

Research team

Janice Mclaughlin, Paul Rosen, David Skinner, Andrew Webster. Funding Body: ESRC, 1995-8


  • Janice Mclaughlin, Paul Rosen and David Skinner and Andrew Webster (1999) Valuing Technology: Organisations, Culture and Change. London: Routledge.
  • Janice Mclaughlin and Andrew Webster (1998) 'Rationalising Knowledge: IT Systems, Professional Identities and Power' Sociological Review 46(4): 781-802.