A Practice Theory in Practice : Analytical Consequences in the Study of Organization and Socio-Technical Change

Abstract: Appealing calls are often made towards the study of phenomena through so-called practice theory. However, the implications of the use of practice theory, if taken seriously in analysis, are rarely discussed. The chief concern of this thesis is the applicability of the most radical dimensions of practice theory. By drawing from the key proponent of contemporary practice theory, Theodore Schatzki, this thesis assesses how practice theory can inform empirical analysis and what it can offer organizational studies in particular.Defining practice theory as an interpretative lens, this thesis proposes a methodology for the study of practices that finds organization in two senses, within practices and between them. Putting such a proposition to the test, a study of socio-technical change at the Swedish Social Insurance Agency is utilized as an illustration of the use of practice theory and how empirical issues tread forth in analysis.The illustration shows how classical organizational issues are re-imagined by proposing an alternate kind of context; practice as context. Not solely a descriptive effort to grasp what people do, the study presents how doing is explicable by examining the multiple contexts of organizational life. Having defined practices as unfolding phenomena, the practice analysis also presents a moderately processual analysis fitting for the study of material re-arrangement and the re-organization of practices. The distinctiveness of the practice analysis, and the interpretative work it demands, is further demonstrated by comparison with established ways of analyzing activity and organizational phenomena, including such approaches that imagine organizations as cohesive wholes and those that study organizing.This thesis offers an approach for those who want to undertake empirical research using practice theory, demonstrating its unique possibilities. Such an approach is of interest for those who want to heed calls to attend to the practicalities and materiality of organizations.

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