RJ Flexit 2015 project nr: RMP15-0954:1 | RMP15-0954:2

RJ Flexit project title

Using a combined model of language based, SLF, and UTAUT, in identifying factors affecting acceptance of new technology in the industry: A study of ABB User Experience

Cheryl Marie Cordeiro and Michael Lundh who is Senior Principal Scientist at ABB Corporate Research.
Fotograph Kim Norman AB, kimnorman.se

Sammanfattning på svenska / Summary in Swedish

Syftet med denna studie är att undersöka om de nuvarande teoretiska analysmodellerna av teknikacceptans kan förbättras genom att kombinera teknikacceptansmodellen Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology, UTAUT, med språkvetenskapliga analysmodeller från Systemic Functional Linguistics, SFL.

I nuvarande teknikacceptansmodeller beaktas humanistiska värden i termer av beteende, attityder och värderingar.

Denna studie föreslås fokusera på språket som en unik mänsklig förmåga att beskriva en ny och skiftande verklighet.

De flesta studier om teori och modeller kring teknikacceptans har byggts på kvantitativa data trots att studierna behandlat humanistiska kärnbegrepp som social påverkan, individuell inställning, övertygelser och beteenden, vilket medfört att studierna inte kunnat fånga upp aspekter som inte var kända redan före studien, vilket vi kommer att kunna göra här.

Denna studie föreslås utnyttja ABB:s multinationella och globalt ledande ställning inom kraft- och automationsteknik samt dess företagsmiljö för sin studie av användarupplevelsen. Målet är att presentera såväl en metod, ett teoretiskt modellbygge såväl som ett nyskapande och praktiskt tillämpbart resultat.

Studien är av denna anledning

– nyskapande i sin inriktning, och metod, såväl som att den
– förväntas kunna spegla ett nytt spektrum av användaraspekter – lämna ett viktigt bidrag till teoribyggande samt
– skapa en applicerbar metod för framtida studier.

Sammanfattning på engelska / Summary in English

Technology trends indicate that the future of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics is decidedly more human oriented. Synthetic biological automation and AI modelled on human simulation defines a new type of user experience and technology acceptance for tomorrow.

As AI takes over many human tasks, this study proposes to take on a new perspective of a fuller appreciation of the place of natural human language in the use of new technologies. Language remains one of the most fundamental, universal and flexible of existing codifications.

Because language is an inherent faculty of humans and it is an entity used in the design and programming of AI, the purpose of this study is deepen the theoretical foundations of current models of technology acceptance, through a combined UTAUT (Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology), which is the most comprehensive model to date and language based SFL (Systemic Functional Linguistics).

This study proposed to utilize ABB’s multinational and global leader in power and automation technologies as well as its business environment for their study of user experiences. The goal is to present a methodology, a theoretical model building as well as innovative and actionable results applicable to organizations.

Although technology acceptance models do consider humanistic behaviour, attitudes and beliefs, no model to date has effectively placed the innate human factor of language in use as object of study and method of analysis into technology acceptance and user experience. Most studies have also been quantitative in nature, with technology acceptance models defined by known variables. These variables have the result of limiting the understanding of the dynamicity of user experience with regards to the increasing synthetic biological technologies of tomorrow. The proposal for a combined language focused model serves to correct this gap in insight, to lend a deeper qualitative understanding of humans in relation to human computer interaction (HCI) experiences.

The study is for these reasons:

– Innovative in its approach and methodology, where the results are expected to reflect – A new spectrum of user aspects,
– Makes an important contribution to theory-building and
– Creates an applicable method for the industry, and for future studies.

Projektbeskrivning / Project description

1. Research focus – technology acceptance theory and models

Technology trends indicate that the future of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics is decidedly more human oriented. Synthetic biological automation and AI modelled on human simulation defines a new type of user experience and technology acceptance for tomorrow.

As AI becomes increasingly integrated, this study proposes to take on a new perspective of a fuller appreciation of the place of natural human language in the use of new technologies. Language remains one of the most fundamental, universal and flexible of existing codifications. We use language to identify the objects and events around us, and to tell stories of our group and ourselves. We describe experiences, express feelings, and draw others into our own personal realities through language. We use language to ask for information, to explain, to argue, to question, to teach and create functions of AI. Although it is rarely visible to us, language helps us “carry around in our heads a conceptual map of the world, a guidebook to rightness and wrongness, ugliness and beauty, value and worthlessness.” [1].

Language contains metalinguistic properties that make it one of the most versatile symbol systems, used to describe and discuss its own dimensions, as well as those of all other systems. Everyday language is an intrinsic disposition of human beings, permeating all facets of life and intellectual inquiry. Because the human capacity for language acquisition is innate, activated in childhood, the language habit soon becomes relegated to the realm of the sub-conscious and automatic. Yet few scholars and practitioners have seriously considered the costs associated with our total reliance on language as means of our functioning in the material world. In general, we do not pay enough attention to the fact that we rely almost exclusively on everyday language to create a sense of self, and orientation towards the objects and experiences around us in life [2].

When it comes to technology acceptance in world leader of AI technologies, ABB company, a research project focusing on an increased awareness of how natural language is used when describing and formulating user experience could prove fundamentally useful in deepening the insight and understanding of current (and future) technology acceptance, both in theory and in practice. It can also provide further improvement regarding communication between professionals in joint R&D projects in a multinational enterprise.

Since the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) was originally proposed [3], the importance of technology acceptance as an antecedent to the use of technology has attracted much interest from researchers and practitioners [4]. Acceptance of technology is today considered as one of the most important issues in organizations [5]. But even before TAM, various models have been developed from the mid-1970s onwards in order to describe and account for technology acceptance and application.

1.1 Purpose of research – formulating a hybrid model from the perspective of language in use

The purpose of this study is to deepen the theoretical foundations of current models of technology acceptance, in particular by creating a combined of UTAUT (Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology), and SFL (systemic functional linguistics).

The approach proposed for this study is novel in two ways. First, the human factor of language in use has as so far not been effectively placed as an object of study and method of analysis into technology acceptance theories and models.

This study proposes to leverage on ABB’s multinational, global leadership in power and automation technologies and its corporate environment in its advanced user experience research, in order to formulate a combined model of user acceptance grounded in a theory of natural language seen from a functional perspective. The goal is to produce results that would be both beneficial to academia and corporate practitioners in terms of theory and empirical findings.

Second, this study has a qualitative orientation towards data collection and analysis. Although technology acceptance models consider humanistic values, most current studies have been built upon quantitative data, even if they address the core concepts of social influence, individual attitude, beliefs and behaviour [6-11]. The existence of quantifiable variables in turn limits the understanding of the dynamicity of human oriented, human computer interaction (HCI) experiences and its acceptance of use. This study offers new aspects of insights into technology acceptance and user experience.

2. A state-of-art review of technology acceptance models

In the 1970s, Theory of Reasoned Action (TRA) was put forth by Fishbein and Ajzen, that explained a person’s behavioural tendencies with the aim of predicting changes and interpreting particular personal behaviour. TRA was formulated based on the assumption that behaviour is shaped by intentions that in turn depend on personal attitudes and subjective norms. A decade later, Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB), which was an extension of TRA was proposed [12]. The difference being that TPB worked on the assumption that all behaviours are more controlled [13]. In the same decade, the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) to explain the causal relationships between internal psychological variables such as beliefs, attitudes and behavioural intention and actual information technology (IT) system use was developed [14]. The widely studied and considered valid TAM model was based on the two factors of Perceived Usefulness (U) and Perceived Ease of Use (E). These factors were considered more effectively applicable in predicting individual acceptance behaviour across various ITs and their users [15-17]. A TAM2 model was proposed as a theoretical extension of the TAM [18] that included the perspectives of subjective norms and job relevance when accepting the use of new technologies.

2.1 UTAUT (Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology) Model

In a most recent effort at consolidating the variables of eight available models of acceptance of technology, a unified theory of acceptance and use of technology called UTAUT was proposed [14]. It includes the four main variables of Performance Expectancy (PE), Effort Expectancy (EE), Social Influence (SI) and Facilitating Conditions (FC) integrated with the theories of earlier models.

The UTAUT Model has summarized the factors which have been recognized effective on behavioural intentions and users’ actual use in previous models in four determinant factors:

i. Performance Expectancy (PE) – this is the degree that a person believes that using a system will help them greatly achieve more success in their work performance. As such, PE affects positively on the behavioural intentions.
ii. Effort Expectancy (EE) – this is the degree that a person believes that using technology will lead to less individual effort.
iii. Social Influence (SI) – this is the degree to which the users are affected by the attitudes of others in accepting new technology.
iv. Facilitating Conditions (FC) – this is the degree where a person believes that there is a necessary technical and organizational infrastructure to support the use of a technology or system.

These four determinant factors are in turn, influenced by adjustment variables of gender, age, experience and voluntariness of use of technology and consequently, different levels of changes are created for behavioural tendencies [19]. The UTAUT Model generally focuses on the causal (cause and effect) relationship between individual attitudes towards using a technology, personal tendencies towards using a technology, actual use of a technology and identifying performance expectancy of a technology. In this model, FCs are taken as the main determinant factor in the use of a technology or system [20].

3. Language in use, bridging technology and humans

Language is involved with almost every aspect of human interaction. It is the medium in which thoughts are organized and communication proceeds [21,22]. Language is how human thoughts are expressed, best understood in terms of representational structures in the mind and computational procedures that operate on those structures. We create meaning from new technologies that allows for its future acceptance through formulations in language. It is related to us in three distinct complementary ways in its stratified, multifunctional organisation – (i) the processes of language take place in physiological (including neural) and physical space-time, (ii) language is a theory about the material world and (iii) it is itself a metaphor for the material world [23].

But even as it is acknowledged, that language lies at the heart of human activities, few studies outside the field of applied linguistics, specifically that of discourse analysis, have used language as an instrumental tool in understanding the workings of organizations [24-28].

Current language in organization studies tend to view language as an object / phenomenon. This includes that an overwhelming percentage (more than 90%) of language in IB (international business) is being published in English language journals [29] and that initial language in IB research began in with scholars in Scandinavia [30- 32]. Language has been studied as a barrier (object) in firm internalization [33,34]. As an object / phenomenon, language contains properties that enable it to be transferred from one context to another or its use can be moulded by corporate language policies and guidelines [35,36]. Language has desirable properties of being a ‘cultural resource’ [37,38], and a person’s career capital [39]. Like an object, language can be labelled “a corporate language”, it can be acquired as a second language, or co-exist alongside other languages [40-43]. It can also be categorised, belonging to an internal ‘hierarchy of languages’, an entity shifting between in-house corporate groups to being the official corporate language across nations [31]. Language is also seen as an individual or team level property, the diversity of which can be quantified and measured [44]. Less common in the field of IB at the moment is the study of language in its functional aspect, specifically, studies reflecting the metafunctions of language that help uncover the ideological outlook of its user [27].

3.1 SFL (Systemic Functional Linguistics) as modelling tool to user experience and technology acceptance

Traditionally, language has been thought of as a medium for expressing thoughts or reality. SFL reconceptualises language as a semiotic tool connected in the construction, organization and translation of human experiences. It illustrates how linguistic choices systematically contribute to the moulding of social contexts and events. Viewed in this manner language is more than a plane of expression, it actively creates reality. It is simultaneously “a part of reality, a shaper of reality, and a metaphor of reality” [45]. SLF offers a meticulous and systematic way to analyse language in use.

The term ‘functional’ applied to language is derived from the systemic functional theory / linguistics (SFL), a coherent theory and framework of language development and use based on the work of Michael Halliday [46,47], whose work was influenced by the Prague School of the 1920s. The underlying assumption to a ‘functional’ view of language is that the form of language responds to its functions. It recognizes that we use language as a system to construct meanings in different contexts for different purposes. In this study, systemic functional theory is used as instrumental linguistics, which is the study of language for understanding something else [48].

Language in IB studies that focus on the functional aspects of language include aspects of social cohesion and as a lingua franca [49-51], language as facilitative in trade [52- 55], language as facilitative in knowledge sharing [56-58], language as function of cognition, context (culture) and situation [59-63], and language as ideology [64-66].

Set within the broader context of technology acceptance, this study proposes to use systemic functional linguistics (SFL) and the study of language metafunctions in order to gain a deeper understanding of the human side of technology use and technology acceptance, in management and organisation. The main research questions (RQs) addressed in this study are:

RQ1: What are the metafunctions of language as defined by SFL when applied to the context of technology acceptance and user experience?
RQ2: How can the SFL metafunctions of language be used to bolster and combine with UTAUT in order to come to a deeper theoretical and practical understanding of new technology use and acceptance?

3.2 SFL as a tool, as situated within discourse analysis studies

Discourse analysis refers to all studies within the field of applied linguistics that focus on the units of language beyond the sentence level. It highlights language as text (written and spoken), situated in a context. It is used in order to comprehend the production, dissemination and interpretation of texts in the process of communication.

Developed first within the field of linguistics, anthropology and philosophy, interest in discourse analysis as a tool in the study of organization and management has increased markedly in the last two decades. As such, scholars from a wide variety of disciplines from anthropology to artificial intelligence, have expressed interest in studies framed in a discursive perspective [67-72].

There are many tools for discourse analysis, the appropriacy of choice of tool will depend on the researcher perspective and the phenomenon of study. For example, critical discourse analysis (CDA) can be used to investigate organisational power and social hegemonic structures [73-78], speech acts in argumentation and politeness [79- 83], conversation analysis for group dynamics and identify formation [84-90], register and genre analysis for negotiation [91-94], and systemic functional linguistics (SFL) in mapping the landscape of human experience and thoughts as expressed in language use [95-98].

4. Project Plan

The project will be conducted in the stipulated time frame of two years on location with ABB and one year at CIBS at the University of Gothenburg in the time frame of 2015 to 2018.

4.1 Data collection and method of analysis

The method of study is eclectic, using a variety of primary data collecting methods with qualitative methods of analysis of data. Focus group observations, and long interviews will be designed in conversational style, with questions pegged on widening levels of interest that range from those regarding the individual at the core regarding new technologies, to what they think about the use of these new technologies in their broader environment and contexts. The main questions of relevance to the purpose of this study revolve around the individual, their social circles and larger corporate organizational circles with regards to user experience and technology acceptance. The interviews will transcribed according to the Göteborg Transcription Standard (GTS) version 6.4 [99].

4.2 Framework of analysis

This study will look at the three types of SFL metafunctions in language that comes through with discourse, jointly with variables from the UTAUT Model:

(i) The ideational metafunction uses language to represent experience, and how experiences are connected with each other.
(ii) The interpersonal uses language to encode interaction. It shows how valid we find our propositions, encoding ideas about obligation and inclination in expression of attitudes.
(iii) The textual metafunction uses language to organise the ideational and interpersonal meanings into a coherent text.
These three types of meaning are not separate but rather, occur simultaneously represented in the text by six processes.

5. Researcher’s role in the study, relevant qualifications and skills

The Principal Investigator of this study is Cheryl Marie Cordeiro, who is currently an active Research Fellow at the Centre for International Business Studies (CIBS), School of Business, Economics and Law at the University of Gothenburg.

Cordeiro’s academic background is in linguistics (the study of theory of language and language in use). She graduated with a PhD in general linguistics in 2009 from the Department of Philosophy, Linguistics and Theory of Science, Faculty of Humanities at the University of Gothenburg, with a thesis entitled, “Swedish managers in Singapore: a discourse analysis study”. Part of her doctoral studies encompassed cross-cultural management and communication across cultures. In 2000, she graduated with a Master of Arts degree in the English Language from the National University of Singapore, Singapore. In 2001, she graduated with a Master of Science degree in Information Studies, from the Nanyang Technological University of Singapore, Singapore. Her Master of Science thesis studied the impact of Singapore’s IT2000 initiative [100].

She is a member in the internationally oriented CIBS (led by Professor Claes-Göran Alvstam), where up to 15 researchers specializing in IB and economic geography provide an excellent environment and forum for academic collaboration and critical discussions. She has been part of one of CIBS larger research project on the Global Spatial Reconfiguration of the Global Automotive Industry (funded by the Torsten Söderbergs Stiftelse) and she is currently part of the researchers of Kunskap Göteborg 2021 (funded by the Anna Ahrenberg Stiftelse), studying the Sweden-China exchange of knowledge. She has as mother tongue, the English language, her second language is Mandarin and her third acquired language is Swedish.

6. Concluding remarks: Language as soul and competitive edge in ABB’s future technologies

Being a successful leading player in a demanding and dynamic global market means needing to have a comprehensive range of products and solutions. In an increasingly soulless automated world where humans outsource their mental capacities towards greater automation, and towards increasing synthetic biology, a combined model of language focused SFL and UTAUT model of technology acceptance will enable a company to continue putting their customers in focus, in human orientation. Because machines for the moment, do not make themselves and continue to rely on human input in order to evolve. A more social, humanistic approach towards tomorrow’s technologies is key to anticipating customer demands and ensuring long-term profitable growth for ABB company.

Operating in approximately 100 countries with about 150 000 people as employees under its corporate wings, this study of a focus on language and known technology acceptance models could also have intra-organisational educational implications, especially in joint R&D projects between local units in different countries.

Greater language awareness in the building of future ABB technologies would mean greater language versatility – a desirable goal for global citizenship. Given a global environment, greater language awareness in user experience and technology acceptance would be seen as a development of greater cross-cultural flexibility in thinking processes. It is to learn to see in a way that is inclusive, without exclusion to others ways of knowing. It is to be receptive to new ideas, information, intuition and visions. It is to learn to mediate between the various knowledge repositories of the company ABB, for a more sustainable tomorrow. Not just for the employees, but along the entire ABB supply chain of product development.

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[92] Bahktin, M. 1986. Speech Gnres and Other Late Essays, C. Emerson and M. Holquist (eds). Austin: University of Texas Press.
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[94] Fairclough, N. 1993. Critical discourse analysis and the marketization of public discourse: the universities, Discourse and Society, 4(2): 133–68.
[95] Ibid. [46]
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[97] Bloor, T. and Bloor, M. 1995. The Functional Analysis of English: A Hallidayan Approach. London: Arnold.
[98] Ibid. [23]
[99] Nivre, J., Allwood, J., Grönqvit, L., Gunnarsson, M., Ahlsén, E., Vappula, H., Hagman, J., Larsson, S., Sofkova, S. and Ottesjö, C., 2004. Gothenburg Transcription Standard 6.4. Gothenburg University.
[100] Cordeiro, C. M. and Hawamdeh, S. 2001. National information infrastructure and the realization of Singapore IT2000 initiative. Information Research Journal, 6(2). Internet resource at http://www.informationr.net/ir/6-2/p

Projektdeltagarnas publikationer / Project participant’s publications
Cordeiro, C. M. and Hawamdeh, S. 2001. National information infrastructure and the realization of Singapore IT2000 initiative. Information Research Journal, 6(2). Internet resource at http://www.informationr.net/ir/6-2/paper96.html. Retrieved 2 Feb. 2015.

Cordeiro-Nilsson, C.M. 2009. Swedish management in Singapore: a discourse analysis study. Doctoral thesis, Department of Philosophy, Linguistics, and Theory of Science. University of Gothenburg. Internet resource at GUPEA, University of Gothenburg, Internet resource at http://hdl.handle.net/2077/20233.

Cordeiro-Nilsson, C. M. and Hawamdeh S. 2011. Leveraging socio-culturally situated tacit knowledge. Journal of Knowledge Management, 15(1): 88-103.