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Title: ICTs and organisational control across cultures : the case of UK multinationals operating in China
Author: Liu, Wei
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2004
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Today, the growing power of multinational enterprises (MNEs) and the ongoing evolution of information and communication technologies (ICTs) are two important forces in the process of globalisation (Beck 2000). ICTs are regarded as one control revolution driver (Beringer 1986) and used by MNEs to control their subsidiaries (Finnegan and Longaigh 2002). There have been few studies looking at ICTs within MNEs (Torre and Moxon 2001) and their global and social aspects. In the past decades, IS researchers have recognised the impact of cultural differences on the use and development of ICTs. But many of them apply Hofstede's (1980) national culture model that is simplistic and systematic as argued by Avison and Myers (1995), who call for the contemporary anthropological view of culture. This thesis considers how the head offices of UK multinationals use ICTs and other mechanisms such as financial reporting systems, expatriates and face-to-face contacts to control their subsidiaries and joint ventures (JVs) in China across time and space in the context of globalisation. Giddens's theory ofmodemity (1990, 1991) and an anthropological view of culture (Westrup et al. 2004) are identified as main theoretical resources and insights to analyse and interpret the qualitative data collected from three UK manufacturing MNEs. As one type of disembedding mechanisms or expert systems (Giddens 1990, 1991), ICTs are mainly implicated in changing time-space configurations (such as speeding up information and communication transfer); facilitating the displacement oflocal activities; and formalising and standardising business processes and information transfer. Therefore, the head offices of the three UK MNEs can use ICTs and other expert systems as panoptic and disciplinary mechanisms to indirectly and impersonally monitor, check and predict the activities of their JV s and subsidiaries in China. On the other hand, the seemingly 'closeness' through ICTs 'filters out' or misrepresents much oflocal culture and knowledge that occur in different local contexts. ICT -mediated spaces are not rootless and boundless in these cases. ICTs specialise in producing and transferring standardised, disembedded or decontextualised information and consequently bind social interaction and human interpretation. Control based on the information is not rational and transparent, but contested between the global (e.g. ICTs) and the local (e.g. local management). leTs themselves do not automatically possess the panoptic and disciplinary power. Instead, human interpretations through continuous face-to-face contacts at places are vital in understanding the disembedded information through leTs and reducing the information's abstractness and decontexualisation. Human interpretation and action are also essential in (re) interpreting and (re) producing cultural processes in terms of cultural conflict and contradiction, dynamics, heterogeneity and similarities within networks of resources such as leTs, place and leadership. Organisational cultural values are not simply national, traditional, shared and memories traced in people's minds and do not determine their behaviour. Therefore leT -related cultural values cannot completely dominate and define organisational members' thinking and action and produce stable and predictable organisational control.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available