Wanda Janina Orlikowski is a South African-born, US-based organizational theorist and Information Systems researcher, and the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Information Technologies and Organization Studies at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Orlikowski received her B.Comm from the University of the Witwatersrand in 1977, an M. Comm from the same university in 1982, and a Ph.D. from the New York University Stern School of Business in 1989.
She has served as a visiting Centennial Professor of Information Systems at the London School of Economics and Political Science, and was a visiting professor at the Judge Business School at the University of Cambridge. She is currently the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Information Technologies and Organization Studies at MIT's Sloan School of Management.
Orlikowski has served as a senior editor for Organization Science, and currently serves on the editorial boards of Information and Organization and Organization Science.
She is a member of the Academy of Management, the Association of Computing Machinery, the Institute of Management Science, the Society of Information Management, and the Society for Organizational Learning.
Orlikowski's research examines relations between technology and organizations over time, with emphases on organizing structures, cultural norms, communication genres, and work practices. She is best known for her work in studying the implementation and use of technologies within organisations by drawing on Giddens' Theory of Structuration.
Orlikowski has written extensively on the use of electronic communication technologies, most notably collaborating with JoAnne Yates, a professor of communications at the MIT Sloan School of Management. She has also written papers on research methodology and her 1991 paper with Jack Baroudi in Information Systems Research is particularly widely cited. Her most recent work examines the sociomaterial practices entailed in social media.
Structurational studies of technology and organizations
Structurational studies of technology and organizations have been highly influenced by the social studies of technology. Initially arguing for a view of the "duality of technology," Orlikowski went on to argue for a practice-based understanding of the recursive interaction between people and technologies over time. Orlikowski (2000) argues that emergent structures offer a more generative view of technology use, suggesting that users do not so much appropriate technologies as they enact particular technologies-in-practice with them. The ongoing enactment of technologies-in-practice either reproduce existing structural conditions or they produce changes that may lead to structural transformation.
Based on a series of empirical studies of collaborative technologies (groupware), Orlikowski identified at least three types of enactment produced within different conditions and producing different consequences associated with humans engagement with technology in practice.
- Social inertia leads to reinforcement and preservation of structural status quo. Human action with the use of technology tends to be incremental, with people using technology to continue their existing work practices. In the case of collaborative software, this included rigid career hierarchies, individualistic incentives, and competitive cultures.
- Application which arises as people begin to use the technology in new ways within their practices. Such use tends to produce noticeable changes to existing information, tools, and artifacts, as well as work relations and practices.
- Social change, where people tend to integrate the technology into their ways of working so as to produce transformations in work relations and practices. Such changes can lead to important transformations in the structural status quo.
New ways of dealing with materiality in organizational research
In more recent work, Orlikowski argues that our primary ways of dealing with materiality in organizational research are conceptually problematic and proposes an alternative approach that posits materiality as constitutive of everyday life. This work draws on Karen Barad's agential realism and the notion of sociomateriality as influenced by the work of Lucy Suchman and Annemarie Mol.
In co-authored work, Orlikowski and Susan Scott of the London School of Economics argue for a focus on sociomaterial practices within organizational and information system studies. This recognizes that all practices are always and everywhere sociomaterial, and that this sociomateriality is constitutive of the contours and possibilities of everyday organizing.
Orlikowski won the Lasting Impact Award from the ACM CSCW conference in 2015 for her paper "Learning from Notes: organizational issues in groupware implementation".
- Orlikowski, W.J. and J.J. Baroudi. "Studying Information Technology in Organizations: Research Approaches and Assumptions." Information Systems Research, 2, 1, 1991: 1-28.
- Orlikowski, W.J. "The Duality of Technology: Rethinking the Concept of Technology in Organizations." Organization Science, 3, 3, 1992: 398-427.
- Orlikowski, W.J. and JoAnne Yates. "Genre Repertoire: The Structuring of Communicative Practices in Organizations." Administrative Science Quarterly, 39, 4, 1994: 541-574.
- Beath, Cynthia Mathis, and Wanda J. Orlikowski. "The contradictory structure of systems development methodologies: deconstructing the IS-user relationship in information engineering." Information Systems Research 5.4 (1994): 350-377.
- Orlikowski, W.J. "Improvising Organizational Transformation over Time: A Situated Change Perspective." Information Systems Research, 7, 1, 1996: 63-92.
- Orlikowski, W.J. "Using Technology and Constituting Structures: A Practice Lens for Studying Technology in Organizations." Organization Science, 11, 4, 2000: 404-428.
- Orlikowski, W.J. "Knowing in Practice: Enacting a Collective Capability in Distributed Organizing." Organization Science, 13, 4, 2002: 249-273.
- Shultze, U. and W.J. Orlikowski. "A Practice Perspective on Technology-Mediated Network Relations: The Use of Internet-based Self-Serve Technologies." Information Systems Research, 15, 1, 2004: 87-106.
- Orlikowski, W.J. "Sociomaterial Practices: Exploring Technology at Work." Organization Studies, 28, 2007: 1435-1448.
- Levina, N. and W.J. Orlikowski. "Understanding Shifting Power Relations within and across Fields of Practice: A Critical Genre Analysis." Academy of Management Journal, 52, 4, 2009: 672–703.
- Orlikowski, W.J. and Scott, S.V. Sociomateriality: Challenging the Separation of Technology, Work and Organization, Annals of the Academy of Management, 2, 1, 2008: 433-474.
- Schultze, U. and W.J. Orlikowski. "Virtual Worlds: A Performative Perspective on Globally Distributed, Immersive Work." Information Systems Research, 21, 4, 2010: 810-821.
- Orlikowski, W.J. "The Sociomateriality of Organizational Life: Considering Technology in Management Research." "Cambridge Journal of Economics", 34, 1, 2010: 125-141.
- Feldman, M. and W.J. Orlikowski. "Theorizing Practice and Practicing Theory." Organization Science, 22, 5, 2011: 1240-1253.