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Electronic Government as a combination of human and technological agency:Testing the principle of symmetry

Journal article
Authors Agneta Ranerup
Published in Information Polity
Volume 12
Pages 153-167.
Publication year 2007
Published at Department of Applied Information Technology (GU)
Pages 153-167.
Language en
Keywords Electronic Government, symmetry, Actor-Network Theory
Subject categories Media and Communication Technology, Other Social Sciences not elsewhere specified


It is argued here that Electronic Government (E-Gov) research to date has misconceived humans and technology, tending to give primacy to one or the other, but failing to grapple with their interaction. The present paper tries to remedy this by introducing an Actor-Network Theory (ANT) inspired approach in which the principle of symmetry is applied to an empirical case. This perspective emphasizes agency as a combination of actions of humans and technology, both separately and in conjunction (a “hybrid”). The research context is a computerized decision support (DSS) for portfolio management in the premium pension system in Sweden. The study shows that a system incorporating humans in conjunction with the DSS (a “hybrid”) is able to make advanced economic decisions in line with pension policy by incorporating the preferences and characteristics of humans as well as the capabilities of technology. From a more general perspective, E-Gov is discussed today as a way of extending the hybridization of society, which is becoming an increasingly important component of the state’s relationship with its citizens. The paper also discusses methodological implications, most importantly how to represent technology in a symmetrical analysis and how to avoid excessive detail in reporting.

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