Through the Eyes of Others: How Onlookers Shape the Use of Technology at Work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

In this paper, we argue that the use of technology is structured not only by users, technology, and social context, but also by onlookers (i.e., actors for whom the use is visible, but who are not directly involved in the activities of use themselves). Building on the “technology-in-practice” lens and insights of an ethnographic study in operating rooms where nurses used mobile technology for various work-related and recreational purposes, we show how onlookers contribute to structuring collective patterns of technology use. We conceptualize their role as the “onlooker effect,” which means that onlookers’ inferences, judgments, and reactions trigger users to reflect on consequences and adjust the use in front of others, a phenomenon which is activated by the cues unintentionally given off when using technology. By identifying the role of onlookers in technology use, this study goes beyond user-centric and feature-centric perspectives on information technology use, illustrating that it does not happen in the physical vacuum, but often draws in unintended audiences. The onlooker effect provides a more in-depth explanation for unexpected patterns of technology use emerging in the workplace.
LanguageEnglish
Pages1-26
JournalMIS Quarterly
Volume41
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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Operating rooms
Information technology
Technology use
Lenses
Vacuum
Mobile technology
Trigger
Operating room
Social context
Nurses
Inference
Information technology use
Work place

Cite this

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title = "Through the Eyes of Others: How Onlookers Shape the Use of Technology at Work",
abstract = "In this paper, we argue that the use of technology is structured not only by users, technology, and social context, but also by onlookers (i.e., actors for whom the use is visible, but who are not directly involved in the activities of use themselves). Building on the “technology-in-practice” lens and insights of an ethnographic study in operating rooms where nurses used mobile technology for various work-related and recreational purposes, we show how onlookers contribute to structuring collective patterns of technology use. We conceptualize their role as the “onlooker effect,” which means that onlookers’ inferences, judgments, and reactions trigger users to reflect on consequences and adjust the use in front of others, a phenomenon which is activated by the cues unintentionally given off when using technology. By identifying the role of onlookers in technology use, this study goes beyond user-centric and feature-centric perspectives on information technology use, illustrating that it does not happen in the physical vacuum, but often draws in unintended audiences. The onlooker effect provides a more in-depth explanation for unexpected patterns of technology use emerging in the workplace.",
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Through the Eyes of Others: How Onlookers Shape the Use of Technology at Work. / Sergeeva, A.; Huysman, M.H.; Soekijad, M.; van den Hooff, B.J.

In: MIS Quarterly, Vol. 41, No. 4, 2017, p. 1-26.

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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