Research Lecture: Melissa Mazmanian

Friday, April 7, 2017 -
12:00pm to 1:30pm


Open to the Public


Phelps 1410


Melissa Mazmanian, Associate Professor of Informatics, University of California, Irvine


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Title: Rituals of Quantification: Understanding the power of output controls

Abstract: In this paper we explore how a single budget projection, an output control, emerges and takes on power. Using qualitative data from a hotel management firm we examine the experience of budgeting: managers navigating messy inputs and various interests to develop a number that, when finalized, drives daily decisions for the subsequent year. We find that budgeting acts as a ritual of quantification through which participants create a single financial projection. Through a clearly linked set of stages, constitutive performances, and intense collective engagement, the process of budgeting becomes an organizational ritual. The ritual upholds latent organizational values; strengthens the symbolic power of numbers; and serves as a rite of passage that both transforms the budget projection into a reified output control and transforms peoples’ orientations to the number. Individual uncertainty about what might happen in the upcoming year is replaced by a collective certainty in the veracity and possibility of reaching the budget number. The ritual incorporates behavioral and normative controls that provide the directive authority and power of the output controls that emerge. Understanding this process enhances our understanding of output controls and the power of calculative devices in organizations more generally.

Speaker's Biography: Melissa Mazmanian is an Associate Professor in the Department of Informatics at the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences at the University of California, Irvine. Melissa’s interests revolve around the use of communication technologies in personal and organizational contexts, specifically in relation to experience of work, communication patterns, and the nature of personal and professional time in the digital age. Melissa has published in the Academy of Management Journal, Organization Science, MIS Quarterly, and the ACM conferences on Computer Human Interaction and Computer Supported Cooperative Work. She earned a PhD in Organization Studies from the MIT Sloan School of Management and a Masters in Information Economics, Management and Policy from the University of Michigan, School of Information.


The Technology Management Program Dean’s Research Lecture Series is the premier event that brings accomplished and inspiring professors to campus to explore topics related to the field of technology management and organizations. The lecture series provide a forum for the academic community to learn from and engage in conversations with outstanding scholars on cutting-edge research findings.

Each quarter will feature several preeminent speakers. Lectures will last approximately one hour starting at 12:00pm and take place in the TMP Executive Learning Center, Phelps Hall 1410. Lunch is provided for all guests who RSVP.

Attendees are required to register prior to the event for lunch and space reservation. For more information, contact Amanda Higham via email or by phone at 805-893-7577. 


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