|dc.description.abstract||Markets for enterprise technologies are complex socio-technical arrangements where
the nature of the goods or services available for exchange is frequently uncertain. Early
offerings may appear obfuscated, in part ontologically due to contested boundary
definitions, and in part through the intentional and unintentional work of sales actors.
While it is difficult for actors to know what they are transacting with certainty before
an exchange occurs, expectations are partly shaped in practice during a protracted and
multipartite sales process. In the early stages, such technologies may be nothing more
than ‘slideware’ or ‘vapourware’, with the promise of the offering yet to be realised.
Suppliers are therefore faced with the challenge of how to bring an immature product
to the serious attention of users.
One such example which has dominated the ICT landscape in recent times is
‘cloud computing’, a vision for on-demand utility computing which on the one hand
promised computing resources accessible like an infrastructure commodity such as
electricity, but on the other declared by some as simply everything we already do in
computing today. This thesis offers a longitudinal case study of the way in which a
major ICT supplier, IBM, attempted to galvanise the market for its cloud-enabled
products amongst user organisations. In doing so the supplier had the challenge of
selling a model of outsourced services to organisations with deeply embedded ICT
systems around which the sales processes had to be made to fit.
The research centers on four empirical chapters which bring together contextual
narratives of cloud computing, findings related to the sales work users do, the sales
challenges encountered during crisis management, and the shadow activity that occurs
during professional user groups and conferences. The discussion explains how actors
work together to construct an imagined community of technology artefacts and
practices that extends our understanding of how technology constituencies hold
together without overt forms of control.
The study draws together a number of years of fieldwork investigating user
group events in the corporate ICT arena and a major UK customer implementation.
These are explored through a mobile ethnography under the banner of a Biography of
Artefacts and Practices (Pollock & Williams, 2008) making use of participant
observation, and selective interviewing, with a particular focus on naturally occurring