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This article engages with the affordance literature and identifies a need for a reorientation of its use in organization and management studies. Thus far, affordances has mainly been used as part of the program of sociomateriality to describe the technology–user dyad. Only to a lesser extent have studies using the affordance concept been sensitive to the means in which contextual conditions outside the technology-user dyad configure technological affordances. In order to provide such a sensitization, this article mobilizes the emerging field of valuation studies. It contributes to affordance literature with a synthesis of valuation studies and affordance theory and by constructing the concept of situated valuation as an associate concept to affordances. This article demonstrates the worth of this association by drawing on a comprehensive, ethnographic study of Lean management in a children’s hospital.
In conclusion, affordance theory offers organization and management studies a lens for understanding the influence of technology that accounts for both its material and social construction, or rather, one that integrates the two. The implication of taking the notion of affordances seriously is abandoning the idea of settling the features of a technology prior to its insertion into an empirical context. Coupled with the concept of situated valuation, affordances afford a non-deterministic and empirically sensitized vocabulary that brings attention to the process through which the relevance of a technology is established, whom and what this process enrolls and entails, and what the implications are. This vocabulary makes it possible to bring forward empirical nuances that help explain, for example, how technology is sometimes found relevant and at other times not, as this article has illustrated with the study of Lean management in a children’s hospital. I hope that such a vocabulary may be valuable to other scholars interested in exploring how the proliferation of technologies in today’s organizations (re)configure organizational practices. Where the analytical strategy chosen in this article brings forward accounts of how and when a technology comes to afford what it does in empirical situations, an equally interesting strategy is to unfold the organizational trials of valuation (Hauge, 2018, under publication) involved in this process. Valuation studies and the affiliated literature provide useful sources of inspiration for such an endeavor, many of which are positioned against the tendency to present accounts of the “winner technology.” For example, Gond, Cabantous, Harding, and Learmonth, (2016) recommend the notion of “performative struggles,” and others suggest investigating the margins, dissonances, and ruptures between different values and principles of valuation (Dussauge et al., 2015; Mennicken & Sjögren, 2015; Stark, 2009). Notably, such situations of unsettledness illuminate the various yardsticks, technologies, and matters of concern that inform the valuations and offer access to the “explicit assembling, articulation, coordination, and negotiation of values” (Dussauge et al., 2015: 1). Future studies interested in extending the synthesis of valuation studies and affordance theory provided by this article could fruitfully attend to the political nature of the process of valuation.