The dynamics of architecture-governance configurations: An assemblage theory approach

Ole Hanseth, Joan Rodon Modol

Research output: Indexed journal article Articlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Research on digital infrastructures and platforms studies large-scale systems that are characterized by constant evolution, loosely defined boundaries, and growing complexity. This research demonstrates that evolution is driven by tensions (between stability and change), which are in turn determined by the systems’ architecture and governance structures. This paper argues that architecture and governance are intrinsically related and conceptualizes them as a unified entity that we call an architecture-governance (A-G) configuration. We focus on the dynamics of A-G configurations—i.e., how architecture and governance interact and, in combination, shape the evolution of digital infrastructures, while, at the same time, change as emergent outcomes of the evolution of infrastructures. Toward this end, this paper applies assemblage theory as a lens for conducting a longitudinal study on an electronic prescription infrastructure. We identify three overall A-G configurations corresponding to different phases of the evolution of the infrastructure. This paper makes three contributions. First, we theorize the A-G configuration as an intertwined intermediate-scale entity that represents the form of the infrastructure and simultaneously constitutes an assemblage in its own right. Second, we demonstrate how an A-G configuration and its infrastructure coevolved through a series of interacting stabilization and destabilization processes operating within and across levels. Finally, we argue that tensions driving the evolution of infrastructures are also dynamic and that, accordingly, the focus of study should be on the processes of stabilization and destabilization rather than on stability and change themselves.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5
Pages (from-to)130-155
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of the Association for Information Systems
Volume22
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Keywords

  • Architecture
  • Assemblage Theory
  • Digital Infrastructure
  • Digital Platform
  • Evolutionary Dynamics
  • Governance
  • Healthcare

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