IMCA Research Seminar - Michael Barrett, Cambridge Judge Business School: "A Relational Perspective on Organizing Risk and Digital Technology: Improvising Telemedicine for Eye Care services during Crisis"

Institute of Marketing and Communication Management

Date: 27 October 2022 / 12:30 - 14:00

Room 253

A Relational Perspective on Organizing Risk and Digital Technology: Improvising Telemedicine for Eye Care services during Crisis

M. Barrett, E. Oborn, K. Prince, E. Lee


Risk is an integral part of organizing, and no more so than in times of crisis reflective of our risk society.  The complex and dynamic relationship between digital technologies and risk is increasingly important yet poorly understood.  In this paper, we adopt a relational perspective of risk to explore the organizing of risk through digital technology during the COVID-19 crisis.  We conceptualize risk objects as both material and social and highlight the role of digital technology as a risk object, around which risk work practices are improvised amidst the emergence of crisis.  We examine these theoretical ideas in our three-year longitudinal case study of a leading, specialist Eye Hospital research during the COVID-19 pandemic.  We explore the rapid and unprecedented use of video consultations (10,000 in 3 months!)  in reimagining eye services.  Our paper contributes by developing a relational perspective on organizing risk and digital technology; bringing together a relational theory of risk with a relational perspective on emerging technologies and organizing.  We show how the meaning ascribed to digital technology as a risk object can change in the dynamic and wider ecologies of risks associated with crisis, both over time and in relation to other risk objects and objects at risk.   Further, we highlight how risk work practices are improvised around digital technology to provide benefit while also having the potential for harm.  We conclude by suggesting that our relational perspective of organizing risk and digital technology, which is mindful of the duality of harm and benefit, will be useful in understanding the recalibration of telemedicine services in a post-COVID future.


Digital technology, risk, risk objects, risk work, improvisation, scaling, service, innovation, COVID-19, telemedicine, crisis


Michael Barrett is Professor of Information Systems & Innovation Studies, and Academic Director of Cambridge Digital Innovation at Cambridge Judge Business School (CJBS).  He has served as Director (Associate Dean) of Research, REF2021 Chair for Business and Management and Director (Associate Dean) of Programmes, Head of the Organization Theory & Information Systems (OTIS) subject group, and Director of the MPhil in Innovation, Strategy & Organisation (ISO) programme at Cambridge Judge Business School.  Michael’s current research focuses on digital innovation and transformation with a particular interest as to how emerging technologies such as AI, 3DP, telemedicine, and digital twins are enabling new models of care.   He is also studying mobile finance for development with a current interest in the use of mobile payments for enabling climate resilience. Professor Barrett is Editor-in-Chief of the Information & Organization journal and has served as Senior Editor of MIS Quarterly and the Journal of the Association of Information Systems. Michael is a qualitative researcher who conducts process-oriented research using longitudinal in-depth case studies.  He is also interested in other qualitative methodologies including:  ethnography, discourse analysis, action research and grounded theory as well as the development and use of mixed methods.