How IT Mediates Organizations: Enron and the California Energy Crisis


  • Hamid R. Ekbia Computer Science Department, University of Redlands


Market activity, understood as the outcome of arms-length interactions among calculative agents, often involves asymmetries due to the capability of some agents to impose events, actions, and relations that others have to take into account. Information and communication technologies are playing an increasingly significant role in amplifying such capability, and to explain this role we need frameworks that take agents as entangled within the web of relations and connections that make it possible for them to mobilize technologies along with other allies such as people and organizations. Actor-network theory (ANT) is such a framework. The paper applies ANT to the study of Enron's involvement in California's energy market. It will show, from a social-informatics perspective, how technology was variously used, both as an intra- and extra-organizational device, to proliferate links, to enroll allies, to make image, and to amplify Enron's role in the energy market. In short, the paper will argue that IT mediated Enron in more than one way.