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Political satire and the counter-framing of public sector IT project escalation

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journal contribution
posted on 02.09.2020 by Jocelyn Cranefield, G Oliver, J Pries-Heje
© 2018 by the Association for Information Systems. Despite significant research into why IT projects fail, the frequency and impact of failure remains high. Attention has shifted to understanding and guiding de-escalation (i.e., reversing failure). This major turnaround process initially benefits from negative feedback on the status quo and requires an organization to break its established frames and re-establish its legitimacy with stakeholders (Pan & Pan, 2011). We consider the role of satire as a lens to challenge dominant frames and better understand stakeholders during the shift towards de-escalation based on analyzing political cartoons about high-profile troubled public sector projects in New Zealand and Denmark. Drawing on the theories of technological frames of reference, legitimacy, and stakeholder salience, we show how cartoonists expose and critique the normative framing of dysfunctionality to act as field-level evaluators of legitimacy. Through counter-framing, exaggeration, and metaphor, they emphasize the urgency of citizen users’ claims while undermining the legitimacy of powerful stakeholders. We extract lessons for stakeholder management and communication during project turnaround and suggest that satire could be a valuable addition to diagnostic and planning tools during de-escalation. We identify that sensitivity to framing of IT projects exists in the public realm, which reinforces calls for organizations to consider institutional framing.

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Preferred citation

Cranefield, J., Oliver, G. & Pries-Heje, J. (2018). Political satire and the counter-framing of public sector IT project escalation. Communications of the Association for Information Systems, 43(1), 133-158. https://doi.org/10.17705/1CAIS.04307

Journal title

Communications of the Association for Information Systems

Volume

43

Issue

1

Publication date

01/08/2018

Pagination

133-158

Publisher

Association for Information Systems

Publication status

Published

Online publication date

01/01/2018

ISSN

1529-3181

eISSN

1529-3181

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