Publication Details

Dawson, P. & Buchanan, D. (2005). The way it really happened: competing narratives in the political process of technological change. Human Relations, 58 (7), 845-865. Copyright 2005 Sage Publications.


Corporate narratives concerning technological change are often constructed around a linear series of events that show the organization in a positive light to internal and external observers. These narratives often sanitize the change process, and present data from which commentators can formulate neat linear prescriptions on how to implement new technology. In contrast, this paper draws on processual-contextual theoretical perspectives to argue that technological change is a more complex political process represented by multiple ongoing narratives which compete with each other for dominance as definitive change accounts. A central aim of this paper, therefore, is to demonstrate the analytical significance of identifying and unpacking the multiple frameworks of interpretation that are utilized in organizational struggles over technology and change at work. Understanding how change narratives are managed highlights political processes, and draws attention to the ways in which power is exercised through the construction of tacit explanations. The paper thus argues for the more widespread use of the concept of competing narratives in theories that seek to explain the process of technological change from contrasting perspectives.



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