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Contested artifact: technology sensemaking, actor networks, and the shaping of the Web browser

Samer Faraj (Robert H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, USA)
Dowan Kwon (John Molson School of Business, Concordia University, Montreal, Canada)
Stephanie Watts (Boston University School of Management, Boston, Massachusetts, USA)

Information Technology & People

ISSN: 0959-3845

Article publication date: 1 June 2004



Much of IT research focuses on issues of adoption and adaptation of established technology artifacts by users and organizations and has neglected issues of how new technologies come into existence and evolve. To fill this gap, this paper depicts a complex picture of technology evolution to illustrate the development of Web browser technology. Building on actor‐network theory as a basis for studying complex technology evolution processes, it explores the emergence of the browser using content analysis techniques on archival data from 1993‐1998. Identifies three processes of inscribing, translating, and framing that clarify how actors acted and reacted to each other and to the emergent technological definition of the browser. This spiral development pattern incorporates complex interplay between base beliefs about what a browser is, artifacts that are the instantiation of those beliefs, evaluation routines that compare the evolving artifact to collective expectations, and strategic moves that attempt to skew the development process to someone's advantage. This approach clarifies the complex interdependence of disparate elements that over time produced the Web browser as it is known today.



Faraj, S., Kwon, D. and Watts, S. (2004), "Contested artifact: technology sensemaking, actor networks, and the shaping of the Web browser", Information Technology & People, Vol. 17 No. 2, pp. 186-209.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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