SIGCIS 2011 Workshop: Works in Progress: Why does the Study of How Communities are Formed Matter to the History of Computing?

Names: Janet Toland & Pak Yoong

Institutional Affiliation: Victoria University of Wellington

Email Address: &

Paper Type: Work in Progress

Paper Title: The Learning Region Restructured



Paper Abstract: This is a journal paper in development which will take the material from a recently completed PhD thesis and use structuration theory as a theoretical lens to develop further insights. We would like feedback on the way we have used structuration theory to analyze historical data in a regional setting.

Topic:  A “learning region” is a term used to describe an innovative and economically successful region, for example Silicon Valley. My 2010 PhD thesis investigated the role that information and communication technologies (ICTs) play in the development of learning regions. The focus was on how the relationship between people- based networks and ICT-based networks develops over time within a regional setting. The thesis used the historical method developed by Mason, McKenney and Copeland to collect and analyze the data.

Argument: The relationship between people-based networks and ICT-based networks is recursive and difficult to quantify. According to the literature regions with good social capital are also likely to be economically successful. The regions investigated did have strong social capital and were fast adopters of ICT, yet they didn’t demonstrate the economic success that might be expected. Structuration theory may be able to give more insights into the interplay between these relationships over time.

Evidence: The setting for the research was one urban and one rural region in New Zealand. Data was collected over a twenty year period from 1985 to 2005.Twelve interviews were carried out with key figures within each of the two regions, and a database of over 2,500 articles from regional newspapers was built up. The amount of data collected made it difficult to present the findings in a concise manner. The data was organised using a framework but would benefit from a further level of analysis. This paper will use structuration theory as a theoretical lens in order to tease out the complex and changing inter-relationships between people-based networks and ICT-based networks within a regional setting.

Contribution to Literature: This work draws on JoAnne Yates research which analysed the introduction of computers in the insurance industry using structuration theory. This paper will explore the potential of using of structuration theory as an extension to the historical method developed by Mason, McKenney and Copeland.