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[accommodation] [adoption] [assimilation] [availability] [commodity] [device] [diffusion] [focus] [innovation] [leanback/leanforward] [neophilia] [penetration] [progress] [resistance] [technology] [technology transfer] [visibility]

technology change management Many discussions about technology and technology change are handicapped by a simplistic set of notions about technology.

(Technology is often seen as a mass of devices. As more and more devices are invented and launched, at apparently increasing speed, so we feel overwhelmed by technological "progress".)



Changing the organization and its processes to fit (literally: make room for) the technology. Accommodation adjusts the structure (and sometimes the function) of the organization. This can be seen as making the organization more capable (in some respects). Capability is frequently measured in terms of maturity - by optimists who believe that all capabilities are valuable, and who ignore the fact that new capabilities often displace or preclude older (but still valuable) ones.

Assimilation plus Accommodation equals Adaptation 

Veryard Project Papers Technology Change Management: Assimilation & Accommodation


Adoption is an event that occurs when an actor (which may be a person or community, or an agent or artefact to which some responsibility has been delegated) decides to adopts a device.  A manager with sufficient authority may make this decision on behalf of a large community of users.
Veryard Project Papers Technology Adoption


Changing the technology to fit (literally: make digestible by) the organization. Assimilation adjusts the function (purpose, commodity, not to be confused with functionality) and sometimes the structure of the technology. This can be seen as making the technological solution more fit-for-purpose.

Assimilation plus Accommodation equals Adaptation

Veryard Project Papers Technology Change Management: Assimilation & Accommodation


"In our time, things are not even regarded as objects, because their only important quality has become their readiness for use. Today all things are being swept together into a vast network in which their only meaning lies in their being available to serve some end that will itself also be directed towards getting everything under control."
[William Levitt, introduction to Heiddegger, The Question Concerning Technology]

"Goods that are available to us enrich our lives and, if they are technologically available, they do so without imposing burdens on us. Something is available in this sense if it has been rendered instantaneous, ubiquitous, safe, and easy."

[Albert Borgmann, Technology and the Character of Contemporary Life]

Veryard Project Papers Ecological Principles: Availability

Borgmann on Availability

Fallacy: The Availability Heuristic


also known as service
A form of value offered by an agent to a community of other agents. Usually accessed through a defined interface.


also known as artefact, mechanism or implementation
A unit of hardware, software or other functional capability. Something that delivers a service or commodity. For design purposes, devices can be classified as physical or logical.

According to Borgmann, it is a general trend of technological development, that mechanisms are increasingly hidden behind service interfaces. Borgmann calls this the device paradigm. It is exemplified by CBSE.


The spread of ideas, information, knowledge and/or technology across a landscape.

In the literature, there are two largely separate fields of diffusion theory.  Security specialists study the diffusion of components that represent security threats –software viruses and worms, among other things.  Meanwhile, diffusion theorists mostly study the diffusion of “respectable” and “well-behaved” technologies.

Veryard Project Papers The Diffusions of Components (pdf)

This paper takes an ecological perspective on diffusion factors within the software component market.  It analyses the characteristics of software components that are favourable to diffusion, and poses a radical critique of traditional notions of software requirements and software quality.  It also suggests a strategic view of software components and other technological artefacts as evolutionary envelopes rather than fixed collections of properties.

Information Leakage (html)

Internet Links Diffusion (Tom McMaster)

Innovation and Diffusion Theory Studies (Tor Larsen)

Information Diffusion Literature (Roger Clarke)


A centre of attention - threatened by technology, which makes it difficult to maintain focus. Borgmann speaks of focal things and practices, which need to be restored if we are to overcome the device paradigm. Alexander identifies the need for projects to have a centre.
Veryard Project Papers Organic Planning
Internet Links  The Focusing Institute


see also Change, Technology Transfer

Making new. According to some experts, innovation goes through three stages:
type definition process industry example software engineering example
Product Innovation inventing new products or devices Discovering a new drug - for example a herb extract with medical properties. Building a wholly new kind of information system, not just another order processing or video store system
Process Innovation inventing new processes Being able to make the drug in the laboratory. Experimenting with component-based development.
Production Innovation changing the system, changing the organization

in other words, institutionalizing the innovation by establishing organizational forms and infrastructures to make the new process flexible and scaleable.

Being able to make large quantities of the drug to high standards of purity from cheap raw materials. Achieving high levels of component reuse across a large organization.
Veryard Project Papers Our Innovation Practice

Implementing an Innovation Programme

Demanding Solutions A theoretical model of technological innovation

Internet Links Innovation and Diffusion Theory Studies

Leanback / Leanforward

[I heard this distinction made by the broadcaster and writer Muriel Gray, in a programme called Hitchhiker's Guide to the Future on BBC Radio 4, Saturday April 21st.]

Leanback technologies are those that you can relax into using.  For most people, television, film and books are leanback media.

Leanforward technologies are those that require effort and concentration.  For most people, computers and the internet are still leanforward.  For students writing essays, or cramming for exams, books are also leanforward.

Leanback suggests greater availability and invisibility than leanforward. Leanback implies passive reception, while leanfoward encourages the illusion that the recipient is somehow in control.

Leanback and leanforward imply different modes of pleasure. In some cases, greater awareness and deeper pleasure can be gained by leaning forward instead of leaning back. Media studies and some forms of therapy may help to develop such awareness. Some media products aim to excite their audiences into a leanforward state akin to jouissance - this may generate catharsis, even without the corresponding awareness. This relates in a complex way to authenticity.

The leanforward/leadback distinction represents an important yet little-understood dimension of business strategy. 

Veryard Project Papers Pleasure Principle


Obsessive love of the new.  The distorted perspective that results from this.
Veryard Project Papers Neophilia


A way of describing the entry of a technology into an organization or market or society, as if the organization were soft, yielding flesh, and the technology were hard, like a bullet or phallus.

Use of this word to describe the adoption of technology is not only unpleasantly aggressive, but also falsely one-sided. It encourages the illusion that the technology is a fixed device, developed or constructed in one place, from where it is propagated or diffused. It encourages the illusion that the recipients are faced with a simple binary choice - to accept (adopt) or refuse (resist). It creates a false separation between active and passive agents - technology actors and acted-upons.


Progress can be regarded either as a moving away from the past, or a moving towards the future.
Veryard Project Papers Technical Progress


A form of stability affecting people and organizations, especially when faced with opportunities for change.

In our work, we are careful to characterize resistance, not as something to be overcome, but as something to be understood and accommodated.

Veryard Project Papers Resistance


Technology is often regarded as a means to an end, an instrument or contrivance, in German: Einrichtung. According to this view, technology is a series of devices that deliver a series of commodities.

A more sophisticated view of technology concentrates not on the devices themselves, but on the relationships between devices and commodities. These relationships are often hidden by an exclusive emphasis on the device, which Borgmann calls the device paradigm.

Veryard Project Papers Demanding Solutions A theoretical model of technological innovation

Aramis, or the Love of TechnologyReview of book by Bruno Latour

Technology Transfer

The ability of a technology to satisfy the needs of an organization crucially depends on the capability of the organization to accommodate and support the technology. Technology transfer demands two coordinated actictivies: assimilation and accommodation.
Diffusion Models Diffusion is primarily a transfer and spreading of knowledge.  Organizational power may be used to support or resist this diffusion. Diffusion models can be used to predict the overall commercial value of an innovation and the timing at which a critical mass may be expected.
Penetration Models Technology penetration is an act of power by the innovation, its vendors and supporters.  This power may or may not be resisted by the energies of the organizations and markets that are potential users of the innovation. Penetration models can be used by vendors and policy-makers to increase the rate and extent of penetration, and by organizations and policy-makers (not the same ones) to reduce or prevent penetration.
Implementation Models Technology implementation is an act of power by the organization itself, which selects, procures and applies a technical solution to some perceived problem or opportunity.  The effectiveness of this implementation is moderated by the knowledge and energies of the organization. Implementation models may be used by organizations to accelerate the effective deployment of an innovation.  They may be used by vendors to increase the implementability of an innovation, and to reduce the total cost of ownership.

Veryard Project Papers Practical Pitfalls and Dilemmas of Technology Transfer
Internet Links IFIP Working Group 8.6

Innovation and Diffusion Theory Studies

Information Diffusion Literature


Invisibility can be a mode of deception. Heidegger translates the Greek word aletheia (truth) as unconcealment (Unverborgenheit).

Borgmann introduces the term device paradigm to characterize the way technology conceals itself. In Borgmann's account, technological progress increases the availability of a commodity or service, and at the same time pushes the actual device or mechanism into the background. Thus technology is either seen as a cluster of devices, or it isn't seen at all.

Veryard Project Papers Technology and Visibility

The Give and Take of Information

The role of visibility in systems (pdf)


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This page last updated on October 6th, 2004
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