End User Creativity: A Critical Realist Perspective
There has been a recent trend in the IS literature toward viewing IT systems less as material artifacts and more as imbricated, socio-technical a ssemblages. This suggests that greater attention must be paid to the detailed processes be hind the interaction of users with systems. In this thesis, I explored the creative process tha t occurs when end users discover or develop novel and useful ways to appropriate IT systems. I used Eisenhardt (1989)’s framework for inducting theory from case studies, and conducted a n embedded multiple-case study of users who have implemented creative ways to apply existin g IT systems. I applied Critical Realist assumptions and employed theoretical lenses drawn f rom cognitive science (distributed cognition), cognitive psychology (dual-process theo ry) and Markus and Silver (2008)’s variant of Adaptive Structuration Theory (AST). I a ddressed the research question: What are the causal mechanisms that explain the creative app ropriation of IT systems by end users? Using AST as a foundation, I developed a theoretica l framework to represent the problem space that must be traversed by users making approp riation moves, which I have named Affordance Field Theory. I employed Narrative Netwo rks (Pentland & Feldman, 2007) for my primary retroductive analysis, then re-analysed the data using Framework Matrices (Ritchie & Lewis, 2003). The complementary logical forms (pr ocessual and thematic, respectively) of the analytical tools provide empirical corroboratio n for the findings. I have derived a set of cognitive mechanisms that describe the information- processing operations involved in end user creativity. Using metaphors provided by distri buted cognition, I have demonstrated how these mechanisms can be used to explain information processing at both the individual and collective levels. I have also developed an integra tive model to explain how the mechanisms work together to explain creative action at the ind ividual level. I have maintained my primary case study database in NVivo 10.