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ARCOM Conferences

34th Annual Conference – Belfast, UK
3-5 September 2018

Track 2: Theoretically informed research on digitalization in construction

Lead: Henrik Linderoth, Jönköping University; Mattias Jacobsson, Jönköping University; Christoph Merschbrok, Jönköping University; Amany Elbanna, Royal Holloway University London; Martin Löwstedt, Chalmers University

“There is seemingly no end to the academic hyperbole surrounding the potential of BIM to ‘revolutionize’ construction practice ... ” (Dainty et al., 2015: 2)

This quote highlights the exaggerated technological enthusiasm and points towards the fact that contemporary research on digital technologies in construction seldom takes a theory informed- or critical approach. The essence of the quote is however well-aligned with the ‘doer mentality’ among industry practitioners (Löwstedt and Räisänen, 2014), which is reinforced by the need to achieve immediate and tangible benefits when implementing digital technologies (Jacobsson and Linderoth), and adhere to policy makers’ sometimes deterministic view on digital technologies (see e.g. Dainty et al. 2017). However, as the social psychologist Kurt Lewin (1952:169) famously stated, “there is nothing more practical than a good theory”. The implication of this statement is dual. On the one hand, it implies that theorists should aim to develop new ways (i.e. theories) of understanding complex issues. On the other hand, it means that applied researchers and practitioners should utilize these theories when solving complex practical problems. Put another way, theorists should develop theories that enable problem-solving, and practitioners (and applied researchers) should make use of available theories (Sutton and Staw, 1995; Vansteenkiste and Sheldon, 2007). In this track, we build on this duality in our quest to strengthen the ties between theory and practice in the field of digitalization in construction. In essence, in this call we encourage submissions that take on theoretically informed perspectives in order to both further the theoretical development of the field and the understanding of the deployment and use of digital technologies in construction.

Still, there is an exception to every rule. It should be acknowledged that within the construction domain, studies on the deployment and use of digital technologies have lately developed to include more theoretically informed perspectives. For example, Harty (2008) used Actor Network Theory (ANT) in his paper on implementation of innovation in construction. Linderoth (2010) also used ANT to discuss challenges for implementing BIM. Löwstedt and Räisänen (2014) took the perspective of social identity when they explored identity work and processes of identification at the micro-level in a large construction company. Jacobsson, Linderoth and Rowlinson (Forthcoming) drew inspiration from institutional theory when developing an analytical framework to understand ICT transformation within the AEC industry. Davies and Harty (2013) drew on unified technology acceptance and use theory (UTAUT) when studying the acceptance of BIM in a UK contractor firm, and Peansupap and Walker (2005) took their basis in diffusion theory when identifying factors influencing the adoption of ICT in construction.

Following this somewhat recent and still not widespread development of more theory informed studies, this track welcomes all kinds of papers – case studies, conceptual, theoretical, and surveys – that aims at furthering the understanding of deployment and use of digital technologies in the construction industry. The common denominator should however be that authors provide reflections on the theoretical stance taken. For example, that they discuss what is possible to see and not to see with the chosen perspectives.

Based on the potential merits of theoretically informed perspectives digitalization in construction, we invite papers that address (but are not restricted to) the following questions:


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