Early research in the adoption and use of IT approached the phenomenon from a technology deterministic perspective (Markus & Robey, 1988) that focused on the impact of IT, treating it as an exogenous, invariant and monolithic artifact. Researchers then argued that IT innovations are not necessarily adopted passively as standard templates of an idea, rather it undergoes a “developmental process in adoption” involving the redefinition of specific sub-components of the new technology and their interaction with local user context (Rice & Rogers, 1980).
Introduction of new technologies invariably exerts pressure on individuals, organizations and society to change, adjust, or adapt to the new technology. However, the effects of new IT are more a function of how they are used by people rather than a function of the technology itself. Actual behavior in the context of new technologies may often differ from intended use (Markus & Robey, 1988). People adapt systems to their particular work needs, or they may resist them or not use them at all.
Structuration theory has been proposed as a theoretical lens for developing a better understanding ofthe interaction between organizations, technology, and people (Orlikowski & Robey, 1991;
Orlikowski, 1992b). Central to structuration theory is the concept of “duality of structure” which is used to theorize that structures that are inherent in new technologies are different from the structures that emerge in human action as people interact with these technologies. Further, theoretical extension of this approach has been put forth in the form of adaptive structuration theory that has been used for studying organizational change that accompanies usage of new technologies (DeSanctis & Poole, 1994). Drawing upon structuration (Giddens, 1984) and appropriation (Bijker & Law, 1992), Desanctis and Poole (1994) propose adaptive structuration theory for explaining the process of incorporating new technologies into work practice s. Appropriation holds that people actively select how functionality and social structures embedded in the technology are used, and that a given feature may be deployed in different ways depending on how it is appropriated. Thus a key concept that emerges from organizational research in adoption and implementation is that structures, rules and resources provided by technologies and institutions are subject to appropriation by users.
Underlying the notion of social construction of technological systems (Bijker, Hughes, & Pinch, 1987) is a similar set of premises, albeit embedded in a larger sociological context. Social constructionist theory argues that just as technology is shaped by political, economic, social and technical factors, its use will be shaped by individual and societal influences (Bijker et al., 1987; Bijker & Law, 1992). Technology-as-designed provides a range of possibilities for appropriation by users. When technology is deployed by users, they appropriate technology in different ways so that technology-in-use is different from technology-in-design (Carroll, Howard, Vetere, Peck, & Murphy, 2002). As a result technology is shaped and reshaped over time and may eventually reach a state of equilibrium where it becomes embedded in users’ lives. Its continued use will depend on recurring reproduction and reinforcement of appropriated use, failing which the technology may be disappropriated by users. Thus, according to social constructionist theory, the way in which a technology is used cannot be understood without understanding the context in which the technology is embedded. Rather than use that is faithful to design, instrumental uses and dominant attitudes influence the incorporation of new technologies by users. Moreover, the manner in which technology is appropriated further influences the design of technology which in turn shapes use and users indicating that there is no linear path between technology adoption, its use and its impact on society.
The advent of matrimonial Web sites represents the introduction of a new technology into the complex social process of arranged marriage. Their design, largely modeled upon the design of online personals in U. S., is likely to have features that mirror the more western societal context of finding dates and partners. The Web sites offer a number of affordances to users such as content rich personal profiles, more choice, ability to search and filter, many-to-many communication, direct communication and disintermediation among others. However, the adoption of such online services would not depend simply on the characteristics and availability of technology, but on how users appropriate and repurpose the technology artifact for their use. In addition, societal factors such as the image of these Web sites, testimonials and references from the close circle of family friends that bear influence in such matters will also play a critical role in the use of matrimonial Web sites. Context-specific technical characteristics associated with arranged marriages in India such as caste, sub-caste and ‘dowry’ will play a role in determining if these services are used and how they are used to accommodate such considerations. The social construction oftechnology perspective allows us to investigate the adoption and use of matrimonial Web sites for arranging marriages to provide a rich and deep insight into the interplay between technology and complex socially embedded roles, relationships and rituals.