Not everything is as it seems: digital technology affordance, pandemic control, and the mediating role of sociomaterial arrangements

Mora, Luca, Kummitha, Rama and Esposito, Giovanni (2021) Not everything is as it seems: digital technology affordance, pandemic control, and the mediating role of sociomaterial arrangements. Government Information Quarterly, 38 (4). p. 101599. ISSN 0740-624X

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An overly favorable narrative has developed around the role played by digital technologies in containing Covid-19, which oversimplifies the complexity of technology adoption. This narrative takes sociomaterial arrangements for granted and conceptualizes technology affordance - the problem-solving capability of a technology - as a standard built-in feature that automatically activates during technology deployment, leading to undiversified and predetermined collective benefits. This paper demonstrates that not everything is as it seems; implementing a technology is a necessary but insufficient condition for triggering its potential problem-solving capability. The potential affordance and effects of a technology are mediated by the sociomaterialb arrangements that users assemble to connect their goals to the materiality of technological artifacts and socio-organizational context in which technology deployment takes place. To substantiate this argument and illustrate the mediating role of sociomaterial arrangements, we build on sociomateriality and technology affordance theory, and we present the results of a systematic review of Covid-19 literature in which 2,187 documents are examined. The review combines text data mining, co-occurrence pattern recognition, and inductive coding, and it focuses on four digital technologies that public authorities have deployed as virus containment measures: infrared temperature-sensing devices; ICT-based surveillance and contact-tracing systems; bioinformatic tools and applications for laboratory testing; and electronic mass communications media. Reporting on our findings, we add nuances to the academic debate on sociomateriality, technology affordance, and the governance of technology in public health crises. In addition, we provide public authorities with practical recommendations on how to strengthen their approach to digital technology deployment for pandemic control.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: digital technology, technology affordance, sociomaterial arrangements, government, pandemic control, Covid-19
Subjects: J900 Others in Technology
L900 Others in Social studies
Department: Faculties > Business and Law > Newcastle Business School
Depositing User: John Coen
Date Deposited: 18 Jun 2021 08:37
Last Modified: 23 Dec 2022 08:00

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