Standardized Flexibility: The Choreography of ICT in Standardization of Service Work


  • Maria Røhnebæk Centre for Technology, Innovation and Culture, The University of Oslo, Norway



ICT, Welfare Services, Standardization, Flexibility, Tinkering, Choreography


This article is based on a research project that explores the proliferation of information and communication technology (ICT) in public services. Furthermore, the research explores how the enhanced presence of ICT relates to efforts to increas-ingly individualise the service delivery. It can be argued that enhanced individualisation requires increased levels of discretion and flexibility. At the same time, this flexibility needs to be implemented within a standardized framework to ensure due process and to meet demands for efficiency. As local-level work practices in the public services are increasingly being enabled through ICT, the information systems can thus be seen to offer ’standardized flexibility’. Hence, the information systems work as both enablers of flexibility and as controllers of the same.

This research explores how this duality manifests empirically at the local-level of the Norwegian employment and welfare services (NAV). It focuses on the in-terface of the information systems and local-level employees. In this article, I portray the role of the information system, Arena, with regard to how the front-line employees structure and organize their work. This portrayal reveals that the information system reflects an ideal world which is out of tune with local working conditions. The employees are thus facing gaps between the ideals of the system and their actual work context. The main purpose of the paper is to illustrate how the employees deal with this gap; I identify three types of responses and strategies. Moreover, I suggest that the relationship between the information systems and different kinds of local responses may be fruitfully analysed by drawing an analogy with choreography and dancing. The second purpose of this article is thus to outline how the metaphor of choreography may provide a suitable theoretical lens for analysing ICT-enabled standardization of work.


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How to Cite

Røhnebæk, M. (2013) “Standardized Flexibility: The Choreography of ICT in Standardization of Service Work”, Culture Unbound, 4(4), pp. 679–698. doi: 10.3384/cu.2000.1525.124679.



Theme: Objectification, Measurement and Standardization