This Science and Technology Studies Dissertation Improvement Grant will provide funds to document and analyze the development of information systems at Greenpeace, a prominent, transnational environmental organization. Greenpeace grew to prominence largely from its successes in using mass media for environmental advocacy, and the organization has traditionally emphasized technical innovation in the service of environmental advocacy. It is unique among the larger environmental organizations in incorporating confrontational tactics, technical sophistication, and a relatively hierarchical governance structure. This combination of traits makes it an ideal setting for investigating the synergies and discordances between institutions and practices proper to advocacy and those found in commercial settings. Over the past decade, ICT development has emerged as a strategic area for Greenpeace, as is witnessed by increased management attention and a three-fold increase in investment. At present, there are clear indications that technical innovation is being rethought by senior managers, who see promise in models borrowed from commercial settings as means of adaptation to external change. This project will analyze the implications of the organization's efforts to develop shared, geographically distributed information systems. It will use participant observation, ethnographic interviews, and archival research as the basis for detailed histories of three information system projects. The primary conceptual problem of the study will be relating the development and use of the information systems to their successively larger organizational and societal contexts. Extended participant observation of central office IT support work has been conducted at the study's main research site, Greenpeace International. Subsequent phases of research will focus on the distributed environment in which the information systems are used-the organization's many national offices. By examining socio-technical systems in an advocacy context, this study will contribute to research on organizational informatics, social movements, and globalization. Conclusions of this research will be presented as a dissertation that explores the strategic and operational dimensions of information systems development by large environmental organizations. The dissertation will be reworked into a book manuscript. Portions of this work will be presented at Greenpeace International with the primary goals of informing strategic planning for ICT investment and management of information systems projects, and the secondary goal of demonstrating how the insights of contextual inquiry can inform socio-technical design within the organization.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Social and Economic Sciences (SES)
Standard Grant (Standard)
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Frederick M Kronz
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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
United States
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