Organizations, both private and public, are now evolving in a globalized "information society" that has been accelerated by digitization. They find themselves drawn into a spiral of transformations fueled by the incessant reinvention of information and communication technologies (ICT) that are changing digital uses and practices. They transform through the mediating action of ICTs, work activities and associated action situations. Platform and Collective Intelligence analyzes a specific declination of an organization that has become irreversibly reticular: the "platform organization". The network, at the heart of this new conception, proposes a model combining cybernetics and computing. The organization can thus be seen as an interface for contact, via its information systems, for employees or citizens, whatever their geographical location. With a view going beyond technocentrism and technological determinism, this book combines collective intelligence and sociotechnics with the platform to arrive at the notion of "organizational experience".
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1 Organizations and Digital Technology
1.1. Organizations of the “information society”
1.2. Temporality of devices and organizations
1.3. ICT-enabled mediation
1.4. The transformation of organizations
2 The Platform Organization
2.1. Networking of the organization
2.2. Platformization of organizations
2.3. The platform state
2.4. Platform and knowledge
3 Sociotechnical Instrumentation of Collective Intelligence
3.1. Social instrumentation through digital technology
3.2. Collective intelligence, an operating model for organizational transformation
3.3. Collective action and analysis of the potential of collective intelligence
3.4. From communities to meta-organization
4 Organization Experience
4.1. Organization through the prism of change
4.2. Sociotechnical device and catalyst for organizational transformations
4.3. Organizational variations of collective intelligence
4.4. Intangible common goods
C.1. Organization and digital, between hybridization and calculability of reality
C.2. The co-construction of sociotechnical devices...
C.3. … to the co-transformation of the organization
Appendix: Framework for Analyzing the Potential of Collective Intelligence (Mačiulienė et al. 2015)
A.1. “Capacity” dimension
A.2. “Emergence” dimension
A.3. “Social maturity” dimension
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Table 4.1. The five typologies of inertia existing in organizations (according t...
Figure 1.1. Most active technology sectors in 2018 in terms of number of patent ...
Figure 1.2. Percentage of people having connected to the Internet in the last th...
Figure 1.3 Direct and media reports supported by the instrument (according to Ra...
Figure 1.4. Web 2.0 Meme Map (source: O’Reilly (2005))
Figure 1.5. Reasons for organizational transformation (according to Dudezert 201...
Figure 2.1. Representation of the Arpanet network in March 1977 (source: Compute...
Figure 2.2. Representation of an organization in cybernetic thinking (source: Or...
Figure 2.3. Representation of the platform state (according to Janssen and Estev...
Figure 2.4. Illustration of the set of areas that are addressed by the governmen...
Figure 2.5. Screenshot of the modernisation.gouv.fr site on the page presenting ...
Figure 2.6. Screenshot of the beta.gouv.fr site. For a color version of the figu...
Figure 2.7. Screenshot of the api.gouv.fr site listing the APIs made available b...
Figure 2.8. Representation of the SECI model (source: Wikipedia, Ibmgroup, CC BY...
Figure 3.1. The artifactual process (according to Agostinelli (2009, p. 366))
Figure 3.2. Framework for analyzing the potential of collective intelligence (ac...
Figure 3.3. Representation of the platform organization
Figure 4.1. The context of ITD action (according to Castro Goncalves (2011, p. 4...
Figure 4.2. Components of the user experience(according to Barcenilla and Bastie...
Figure 4.3. Forms and modalities of action according to three points of view ide...
Figure 4.4. Elevator and network communities (as cited in Wellman (2002, p. 13))
Figure C.1. Summary diagram of the components of the organization experience mob...
Figure A.1. Details of the elements related to the “capacity” dimension of the f...
Figure A.2. Issues associated with the capacity dimension
Figure A.3. Details of the elements related to the “emergence” dimension of the ...
Figure A.4. Issues associated with the emergence dimension
Figure A.5. Details of the elements related to the “social maturity” dimension o...
Figure A.6. Issues associated with the social maturity dimension
Table of Contents
End User License Agreement
First published 2021 in Great Britain and the United States by ISTE Ltd and John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Apart from any fair dealing for the purposes of research or private study, or criticism or review, as permitted under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, this publication may only be reproduced, stored or transmitted, in any form or by any means, with the prior permission in writing of the publishers, or in the case of reprographic reproduction in accordance with the terms and licenses issued by the CLA. Enquiries concerning reproduction outside these terms should be sent to the publishers at the undermentioned address:
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John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
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© ISTE Ltd 2021
The rights of Antoine Henry to be identified as the author of this work have been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
Library of Congress Control Number: 2020946598
British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data
A CIP record for this book is available from the British Library
The scientific work and research that concerns organizations has grown considerably in recent years. This is due to the polarization of human activities within structures whose projects and vocations are extremely diverse. It is then as many pluriverses and plurivocal processes that coexist, function and interact locally, globally – and even glocally – in the multitude of these existing organizations and social structures whose legal and managerial form often remains conventional (Svensson 2001; Batazzi-Alexis 2002; Eberhard 2013; Koop 2018). Moreover, this polarization in organizations has spread with the unifying framework represented by the “information society” (IS), which has been further aggravated by the intensification of the economic dimension in contemporary societies (Ahrne and Brunsson 2005). This recent context has exacerbated the place of organizations, identified as atomic entities through which, and within which, a wide range of the multiplicity of human activities is expressed. The complexity of these agencies, which are being developed on a planetary scale with the explosion of international economic transactions, explains why the organizations are studied by a wide variety of disciplines and scientific fields that are often complementary: management sciences, economics, information technology, law, commerce, sociology, anthropology, social psychology, ethnology, and information and communication sciences (Geslin 2002; Bernard 2004).
It is clear that today’s organizations, which have risen to the new “information society”, much to the delight of political and economic forces, bear witness to a new complexity engendered by a heterogeneous set of structures whose boundaries have become more flexible and whose communication processes have become intertwined. These structures increasingly interact through an increase in self-emerging cross-cutting collaborative activities and processes (El Amrani 2008). This complexity surpasses the binary categorization used until recently, distinguishing according to a trivial typology between private and public entities: the former are generally associated with the world of business, trade and industry, and the latter with the institutional and governmental world in its national or international declinations (such as the UN, UNESCO, ISO and WHO) (Bouillon 2005; Bernard 2016), both evolving until now in an implicitly recognized territorialization.
The massive penetration of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in all spheres of human activities and the unprecedented expansion of digitally mediated communications have completely reshuffled the maps and functional boundaries of these basic types of organizations built on a common hierarchical decision-making model. An unprecedented complexity has emerged, which is driven by the immediate concentric and/or eccentric influences propagated by the dissemination and sharing of natively digital information. Concentric influences emanate from outside the organization and intrude, either voluntarily or accidentally, into the internal processes of organizations outside the usual and regulated channels of information dissemination. Eccentric influences, on the other hand, are those that an organization exerts on the outside, voluntarily or accidentally, through the same technological channels for disseminating and sharing information, as well as outside the usual and regulated circuits defined by the organization. This sudden porosity – of an informational and communicational nature – of the clear boundary that recently separated the inside of an organization from the outside, has come about with the massive adoption and exploitation of these computer technologies specific to the Internet, the Web of Documents and the Social Web (Navarro 2001; Gardey 2003; Greenan and Mairesse 2006; Hochereau 2006; Walkowiak 2006).
The technological tools, inspired by the Internet and the early Web (Web 1.0), which became widespread in all organizations, from the smallest to the largest multinationals, brought much more than operational comfort to organizations. Previously, their decision-makers were worried about the inevitable time to upgrade their IT systems, given the impact in terms of cost, reorganization of practices and training of staff, and were not at ease with the procedures for re-computing, upsizing or migrating their information systems (Botta-Genoulaz 2007; Legrenzi 2015; Besson 2016).
The widespread use of Web technologies, supported by the World Wide Web Consortium and its powerful members, has definitively dispelled doubts about the operational efficiency, robustness, scalability and adaptability of these digital technologies (Papy and Sansonetti 2014). Major technological achievements such as YouTube, Amazon, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, in their respective economic registers, retain their leadership role and, through their technological and economic performance, support the technological architectures on which their success was built. These extraordinary digital devices, via their platform marketplace with a global audience, drive a large part of the world’s economic activities and are also the broadcasters/recipients of a considerable proportion of online digital traffic. These spectacular technological and economic successes are now inspiring the most recent platforming projects, to which all private and public organizations are committed, whatever their scope of action. It is still the same digital technologies that are being mobilized and acclaimed, contributing to the increase, if there was still a need, of their trust capital.
Thus, the performative efficiency of Web technologies and their rapid acceptability, both by the technical teams that implement them and by the users who have to integrate them into their work processes, have determined the decision-makers and information technology departments of these organizations to adopt these technologies, which have been instrumental for two decades now in the Web of Documents, the Web of Data, the Semantic Web, the Social Web and the Commercial Web.
The deployment of Web technologies within organizations is now confirmed and applies, through specific applications, to all processes essential to the operation of organizations: administrative, accounting, logistics, commercial and industrial. However, this deployment is not insignificant (Hénnocque 2002; Rifkin 2002; Balpe et al. 2003; Berry 2008; Doueihi 2008). Web technologies, heir to the conceptual and technical principles of the Internet, convey all the meshing and networking mechanisms for which the TCP-IP communication protocol and its associated historical services (such as RCP, RCMD, FTP, SMTP, NNTP, WAIS, GOPHER and HTTP) have been developed. The social, participative and community evolution that was imposed with the first peer-to-peer distributed applications has continued to grow with digital social networks where hundreds of millions of users around the world interact (De Gail 2013). The reticular logics of communication and the diffusion of information have propagated in organizations at the same speed as the deployment of software environments that have switched infocenters and groupware to the intranet, cloud computing and Software as a Service (SaaS) to reach its most sophisticated expression: digital platforming.
Computer applications using Web technologies are now homogenizing infocommunication practices regardless of the size and nature of the organization: multinational, government, institution, NGO, association, family business or craftsman. The evolution of digital practices and uses that have spread massively with mobile telephony has finished consuming the informational and communicational porosity of organizations. The perpetual rearrangement of communication, sharing and dissemination of information within organizations, towards the outside world and according to hybrid internal/external formats, are reconstituting virtual communities of interests or practices that bring together users who are freeing themselves from traditional and established hierarchical logics (Henry 2019a).
Chapter 1 proposes to return to the inclusion of organizations within this conception of the “information society” by contextualizing notions related to the digital world, organizations and relations with users. We shall return more particularly to the question of the inherent temporality of digital technology, and then focus on the mediation provided by technical devices, before illustrating the transformations brought about by digital technology.
Chapter 2 explores the issue of the platform organization in order to position different notions (such as the network organization) to deal with the platformization of organizations and the particular case of the State as a platform.
Chapter 3 is devoted more specifically to the formation of the sociotechnical instruction of collective intelligence. To this end, we will study the way in which the social is instrumented by the digital, as well as the vision carried by both the sociotechnical and the operational model of the transformation of the organization linked to collective intelligence.
Finally, we will come to the notion of “organizational experience” by focusing, in Chapter 4, on the capacity of actors to transform their organization by mobilizing the concepts explored in the previous chapters.
Within contemporary society, information and communication technologies (ICTs) are the bearers of the “imaginary of a technical action initiating new social projects” (Papy 2009, p. 15).
In recent years, public and private organizations1 have been receptive to this discourse and have equipped themselves with digital technical devices that respond to the new forms of modernity brought about by ICT and the “information society” (IS).
In order to achieve the ambition of this book, it seems useful to present the current context of Western organizations and more particularly that inherent to the information society.
Having emerged in the 1990s, the concept of the “information society” reflects a conception that combines political2 discourse and technical3 infrastructure. The whole is marked by neo-liberalism in a context of accelerated globalization and strong economic competition. Thus, in three decades, the digitization of society has materialized, mainly in the Northern countries4. This social project, carried by industrial countries and private5, public6 or associative actors, is then “a source of new forms of organization and emancipation, it is also a source of new modalities of social control and of enslavement” (Mattelart 2018, p. 4). In fact, technology, instantiated by digital technologies, no longer expresses itself only in control or structuring, but accompanies the social construction of society by giving it a technical foundation. Castells (1998) presented this vision in his reference work La société en réseau, as did Rheingold (2005, p. 16), for whom “the greatest successes in the information and communication technology (ICT) industry will come not from hardware or software, but from new social practices”. Thus, ICTs can extend to the entire social structure (Castells 1998, p. 525).
The inclusion of the organization in the “information society”, where information is an essential economic asset to be competitive (Miège 2002; Mevel and Abgrall 2009; Ng 2013), is a trend that can be illustrated by the most active sectors in terms of the number of patent applications filed (Figure 1.1).
Figure 1.1.Most active technology sectors in 2018 in terms of number of patent applications (source: European Patent Office, 2019)
COMMENT ON FIGURE 1.1.– While some sectors are directly related to information and its processing (notably the digital communications and computer sector), the transport or health sectors are also major players today in relation to the issues of connected health or autonomous vehicles. Information, in its digital form, then becomes central to the development of these economic sectors.
This informational orientation makes it possible to reposition the organization around the “information culture7” from the moment that it is accepted that there is “no information society without information culture” (Baltz 1998, p. 77).
This point of view is shared by Guyot, for whom information “is part of our daily environment – we use it, we seek it, we produce it at all times – which classifies it as one of those gestures that are so inconsistent that it seems inappropriate to wonder about them” (Guyot 2006, p. 12). Today, information is taken into account in the production of goods or services (Guyot 2006, p. 12), and also as a competitive advantage in the context of the implementation of strategic intelligence (Castagnos and Lesca 2004; Moinet 2009).
It is this phenomenon, both present in society and in organizations, which is called “informationalization” by Miège (2007). He describes this notion as “the increasing and accelerated circulation of flows of information, whether published or not, in the private sphere, in the work environment or in the public space” (Miège 2007, p. 66). The latest data published by INSEE8, illustrated in Figure 1.2, confirm this trend.
Figure 1.2.Percentage of people having connected to the Internet in the last three months according to the INSEE survey on ICT use by Households between 2009 and 2018 (source: INSEE)
COMMENT ON FIGURE 1.2.– In light of these results, ICT use continues to grow in France in all segments of the population studied by INSEE. However, disparities in use remain, particularly between age groups and according to urban/rural location. Internet access has grown very strongly with the introduction of the so-called “smartphones” and with the introduction of 3G, then 4G and soon 5G, which promote mobile Internet access.
The devices associated with this “information society” lead to an increasing instrumental mediation, both in private life and in the professional context, for access to information, one of the fundamental dimensions of which is temporality.
In a collective, temporality is a source of intelligibility, i.e. it participates in the understanding of human phenomena within organizations (Dubar and Rolle 2008). Time even conceals a “capacity to define, to a certain extent, the identity of the actors, [and] also has the capacity to define the ‘reality’ of their socio-cultural environment” (Semprini 2003, p. 53). For Semprini, this is an essential notion for accurately analyzing an actor or a situation to the point where, according to him, temporal logic unfolds as the current paradigm of the “flow society”.
In the devices, several temporalities cohabit and sometimes oppose each other. The technical systems are part of a logic of flows and processes in which ICTs promote the “liquidity” of modern society, i.e. a society “where the conditions in which its members act change in less time than it takes for modes of action to become fixed in habits and routines” (Bauman 2006, p. 7). Relationships, routines and knowledge are constantly evolving to meet the imperatives of this “liquid” society.
Alongside these considerations directly related to ICTs, Aubert (2003) and Finchelstein (2011) argue that society and organizations are in a state of urgency leading to a permanent tension of adaptation to societal expectations. This consideration leads to the acceptance of acceleration as “the major experience of modernity” (Rosa 2013, p. 1). Rosa confirms this experience by isolating three axes of acceleration: technological acceleration, the acceleration of social change and the acceleration of the pace of life. Here, he explicitly states the influence of technology on the question of time. Thus, the basis of the relationship to current time “lies in the alliance that has been forged between the logic of immediate profit, that of the financial markets, which reign supreme over the economy, and the immediacy of the new means of communication” (Aubert 2003, p. 24). The situation that is taking shape leads to the domination of “real time”; a tyranny of the moment, for Carayol and Bouldoires (2011), where everything is just-in-time and in a logic of urgency – even hyper-reactivity – permitted by ICTs.
This conception of organization, marked by ICTs, exacerbates the problematic of temporality in organization (Thoemmes 2008; Domenget et al. 2017; Lépine et al. 2017). It is a reflection that is now significant in relation to the acceleration imposed by ICTs9, one characteristic of which is to “accelerate exchanges” (Kiyindou 2016, p. 13).
Technological tools are reshaping the perception of time, because “the media are mental operators, acting in the construction of our representations and particularly in the representation of time; in this process, the media play an important role, directly proportional to the size of society and the complexity of social organization” (Martino 2011, p. 41). They participate in the construction of the temporality of the action and its materialization through the mediation imposed by the device.
In keeping with the immediacy of the world, organizations in general and businesses in particular are currently under pressure to adapt almost instantaneously to meet user expectations. However, each activity carried out within the organization has its own temporality.
Considering that the development of the device is linked to its use10, it finds itself in a situation that can be described as “unfinished by design” (Garud et al. 2008), i.e. “the instability, lability and unfinished nature of devices today constitute a sustainable state” (Domenget 2013, p. 43). This permanent non-completion questions the organization’s capacity to adapt in real time to its external environment (responses to market or legal stimuli), as well as internally to the practices and uses of its members.
The system remains incomplete from the point of view of uses that are still evolving and unstable; this means that a great deal of attention must be paid to real, current uses and no longer potential or imagined uses. The next step is to “bring back” these uses, to consider them as a major source of inspiration for design policies (Gaglio 2010). These uses, which are “implicit demands”, are encountered by developers by working iteratively (trial and error) and testing their “imagination of possible uses” (Papy 2016, p. 32).
Based on this observation, in the case of the development of the schemes, “it is not possible to consider the frameworks as pre-existing. They are to be considered at the same time as the action itself” (Aggeri 2014, p. 48). This consideration is fully in line with the logic of the term “beta”11, which symbolizes a state of completion sufficient to make it, in the case of software, testable as is, while accepting its incompleteness (e.g. errors in the computer code or an unfinished human-machine interface). It is then conceivable to develop the system according to the action situations in which it is used, or even to rethink it in its entirety in order to end up with a finalized product adapted to the needs.
This leads to a situation of “flexible interpretive technologies” (Feeberg 2014, p. 43), which states that the design of a device cannot be completed until the uses are well defined. This situation then makes the analysis of uses more complex, as they are constantly in the process of stabilization and instability.
By their “permanent beta” or “perpetual beta” dimension (Gallezot and Le Deuff 2009; Passant 2009; Papy and Sansonetti 2014), ICTs convey their own temporality. Moreover, for an organization, the coherence of its IT assets, linking both old information systems and new technologies, represents a complex situation with several categories of costs: feasibility costs, acceptability costs and costs of compatibility between applications (Benghozi 2000). This complexity contributes to discrepancies between, on the one hand, organizations with a long history of sometimes old software and, on the other hand, the expectations of their employees who implement the most recent ICT in their private sphere (Boboc and Metzger 2009).
The digital, perceived as an antechamber of the real (Bordier et al. 2012)12, mediates with reality in the sense that “an individual never interacts directly with the environment. The relationship between the individual and the objects of the environment is mediatized through means, tools and cultural signs” (Lewandowski and Bourguin 2009, p. 159). In fact, the action mediated, here by digital technology, does not allow the actor to directly access the real, which is then part of the triptych reproduced in Figure 1.3.
Figure 1.3Direct and media reports supported by the instrument (according to Rabardel 1995a, p. 53)
COMMENT ON FIGURE 1.3.– This is a schematic representation that illustrates how the subject passes through the instrument to reach reality or his or her own perception of the instrument. The digital traces (Vayre 2014; Beckouche 2017) are thus an example of what an instrument can generate for a subject; the subject generating his own digital trace through the digital instrument or apprehending an object through it. What makes it possible to distinguish one activity from another is “the difference between their objects, because it is the object of the activity that gives it its orientation” (Rabardel 2005, p. 252). Digital technology, by virtue of its role as a mediator, helps to produce this mediatized activity, here in the framework of a private organization, and offers the possibility of using theories of action to analyze them.
Digital technology is therefore a tool that materializes concretely in the form of technical devices that translate and even interpret reality13. Indeed, in the wake of mathematicians such as Leibniz, the digital constructs a representation of the world that is mathematicized (Mattelart 2018). Whether it is the individual, or his/her actions, social relations or knowledge, everything is calculated and represented from this calculation (Carmes and Noyer 2014), so that software predominates in our society by extracting value and contributing to the representation of the world (Galloway 2012).
However, this means of action, whether tangible or intangible, is a constitutive effect of the subject’s action. Rabardel (2005) completes his remarks by specifying that instruments14, like the artifacts of the “information society”, are not neutral or value-free. The said instruments then participate in the construction of reality, with users implementing “devices that influence activities and individual representations” (Bouillon et al. 2008, p. 5). Through these infocommunication phenomena, the devices are associated with the construction and individual and collective implementation of meaning or values.
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