Domestication of ICTs : the case of the online practices of Scottish serviced accommodation
Harwood, Stephen A.
The new possibilities offered by information & communication technologies (ICTs) within the work-place and elsewhere have attracted wide attention by economic and social actors. One outcome is the institutional ‘push’ for all businesses to embrace these technologies and ‘get online’. However, it is evident that take-up amongst businesses has been highly uneven with some cautious in their adoption and, thus, many have not fully exploited the possibilities offered. To understand this variety in the adoption and use of online technologies (which in some cases includes their nonadoption and non-use) it is necessary to examine practices and establish underlying dynamics surrounding new forms of ICTs. This thesis will investigate the practices associated with the adoption and use of ICTs in the hotel industry. Three basic questions are addressed. The first relates the online practices of hoteliers, including the use of online intermediary services, the nature of uptake and the implications for both practices and relations with customers. The second relates to any externalities which condition a hotelier’s practices. The third is concerned with how to conceptual explain observations – findings. Investigation of these questions has resulted in an empirically rich study. This has involved a multi-method approach that allows online practices to be viewed through different lenses and from an adapted Social Shaping of Technology perspective. The population of Scottish serviced accommodation providers was compiled and used to determine the uptake of online practice. Interviews revealed specific practices. Published material provided insight into contextual issues, particularly those relating to institutional developments. The research shows that there were three principle strategies for the adoption of the new technologies. First, they were embedded by the users themselves (‘internalisation’) – often through much effort and processes of configuration – into their ‘busy day’. The process of ‘learning’ (or learning by trying) was found to be an integral feature of uptake. Secondly, some users opted for an alternative solution where, rather than design their own website, they adopted the offerings of online intermediaries (such as online booking facilities) (‘intermediation’). However, the appropriation of online intermediation was found to be both costly and fraught with new kinds of risks (e.g. double bookings) and uncertainty (e.g. no guarantees of bookings). Thirdly, a further option (‘localisation’) was for local groups of hoteliers to collectively produce an online presence that promotes the locality and thereby indirectly provides benefits to their businesses. The analysis was performed using a modified version of Silverstone’s (1992) ‘domestication’ framework. However, ‘localisation’ questioned the assumptions underpinning ‘domestication’, suggesting the need for a more sophisticated analytical device, such as offered by the metaphor of ‘tailoring’. It is concluded that the apparently deterministic institutional view of the benefit of online technologies and the imperative that they are fully exploited to give competitive advantage, can be at odds with the locally contingent and diverse nature of online practices. The research found that the new online practices did not entirely replace traditional ones, but emerged as complementary to them.