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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Perspectives on computing and organizational rationalization


It is widely believed that the introduction of computing into organizations contributes to more rationalized decisionmaking and policymaking. Until recently, little empirical work has been done on this topic. This paper defines three perspectives, termed the Determinist, Contingency, and Voluntarist viewpoints, which appear in contemporary analyses of the rationalizing effects of computing. Three particular analyses, each of which employs one of these perspectives, are examined and the explanatory power of each viewpoint is compared. We find that the Deterministic position, which holds that computing's contribution to rationalization is determined by technical effectiveness and processing capacity, doesn't fully explain the dynamics of computing and organizational rationalization. The effects of organizational structure, organizational environment, bureaucratic politics and social interaction often undermine the rationalizing potential of computing.

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