This dissertation examines the diffusion of an innovative information technology system across multiple cultures between 2000 and 2006. Developed and implemented by technical communicators in the technical communication department of a global medical device company, the Advanced Single-Source Authoring and Publication System (ASAPS) brought profound changes to documentation processes and was not wholly embraced by all of the writers in a position to use it. Employing the case study method, this project explores the influence of socio-cultural context and agency on the decision to adopt the new system, as well as the role of the technical communicator as change agent during the diffusion process. The inquiry is guided by an adapted hybrid theoretical framework incorporating Rogers' Diffusion of Innovations Theory, Engeström's Cultural-Historical Activity Theory, Hofstede's Culture Dimensions, and the Cultural Studies Perspective. Using online questionnaires, the study examines the adoption decisions of technical writers and translators in the following three locations: Minnesota in the U.S.A., Gelderland and Limberg in the Netherlands. In addition, three technical communicators identified as the change agents instrumental to developing and implementing ASAPS are interviewed face-to-face.
The most notable finding concerning the role of technical communicators as change agents is that a pro-innovation bias coupled with multiple levels of culture differences can hinder the change agent's ability to engage more reluctant users in reciprocal, adoption-conducive meaning making during innovation diffusion. This case suggests that by engaging their rhetorical agency during IT adoption, technical communicators can empower users to participate more fully in the adoption-decision process. One of the more notable findings concerning agency is that users can be empowered both actively and passively during the adoption-decision process, particularly when elements in the socio-cultural context open a window of agency for more silent resistance. Finally, this study suggests that national culture differences can influence adoption decisions by demonstrating that Dutch management tends to reinforce collaborative decisions while U.S. management tends to reinforce individualized decisions.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. July 2010. Major: Rhetoric and Scientific and Technical Communication. Advisor: Bernadette Longo. 1 computer file (PDF); xiii, 258, appendices A-O.
Coggio, Grace Leinbach.
Agency, socio-cultural context, and the role of the technical communicator during IT adoption: a case study in innovation diffusion across cultures..
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