What accounts for coordination problems? Many mechanisms of coordination exist in both organizations and networks, yet despite their widespread use, coordination challenges persist. Some believe the challenges are growing even more serious. One answer lies in understanding that coordination is not a free good; it is expensive in terms of time, effort, and attention, or what economists call transaction and administrative costs. An alternative to improving coordination is to reduce its costs, yet there is little guidance in the literature
to help managers and researchers calculate coordination costs or make design decisions based on cost reductions. Th is article explores two cases—the U.S. Patent and
Trademark Offi ce’s Peer-to-Patent pilot program and the online relief eff ort in Haiti following the devastating earthquake there in 2010—to illustrate the advantages and constraints of using Web 2.0 technology as a mechanism of coordination and a tool for cost reduction. The lessons learned from these cases may offer practitioners and researchers a way out of our “silos” and “smokestacks.”
Now, I’m not totally convinced that the author is suggesting that infrastructure is the answer to reducing transaction costs associated with coordination efforts. However, the claim, which seems well substantiated to me, that the challenges facing those attempting to coordinate are growing “even more serious” amid ever complex webs of people, places and things seems like a valuable position to take for those of us writing on infrastructure.
The position can be used to justify infrastructure research. Why is this needed? All too often, I see papers on infrastructure that must justify their raison d’être and their justification is little better than “duh, its infrastructure”, “its the reason other stuff can work,” or “its the stuff that civilization is made of.” However, I am dissatisfied with all of these reasons, even though I share the personal sentiment, esp. “duh, its infrastructure.”
Of course, there are a variety of reasons that we might want to invetigate/examine infrastructure, especially for theoretical purposes. However, scholars tend to fail to justify their research on a more general or social level, and this position on transaction costs associated with coordination is probably a decent position to start from.