Implementing innovation in construction: Contexts, relative boundedness and actor-network theory
Harty, C. F. (2008) Implementing innovation in construction: Contexts, relative boundedness and actor-network theory. Construction Management and Economics, 26 (10). pp. 1029-1041. ISSN 0144-6193
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1080/01446190802298413
Theoretical understanding of the implementation and use of innovations within construction contexts is discussed and developed. It is argued that both the rhetoric of the 'improvement agenda' within construction and theories of innovation fail to account for the complex contexts and disparate perspectives which characterize construction work. To address this, the concept of relative boundedness is offered. Relatively unbounded innovation is characterized by a lack of a coherent central driving force or mediator with the ability to reconcile potential conflicts and overcome resistance to implementation. This is a situation not exclusive to, but certainly indicative of, much construction project work. Drawing on empirical material from the implementation of new design and coordination technologies on a large construction project, the concept is developed, concentrating on the negotiations and translations implementation mobilized. An actor-network theory (ANT) approach is adopted, which emphasizes the roles that both human actors and non-human agents play in the performance and outcomes of these interactions. Three aspects of how relative boundedness is constituted and affected are described; through the robustness of existing practices and expectations, through the delegation of interests on to technological artefacts and through the mobilization of actors and artefacts to constrain and limit the scope of negotiations over new technology implementation.