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Beyond Bourdieu, Foucault and Habermas: Review and Assessment of Critical Information Systems Research



This paper presents a literature review of critical information systems (IS) research. Specifically, it focuses on how IS researchers have responded to Myers and Klein’s (2011) call to consider critical approaches and theorists in addition Bourdieu, Foucault and Habermas. The review identifies and discusses three types of critical IS research “beyond Bourdieu, Foucault and Habermas”: work based on a) (other) critical grand social theories, b) postcolonialism and c) data-focused critical methods (i.e., Capabilities Approach, Critical Discourse Analysis, Critical Heuristics and Design, Frame Analysis and Phronetic Enquiry). Based on the literature review, the paper maps the landscape of critical approaches and theories and identify their origins. This analysis is helpful for IS researchers interested in conducting critical IS research by charting the range of critical research approaches beyond Bourdieu, Foucault and Habermas.
Australasian Conference on Information Systems Wang, Schlagwein, Cecez-Kecmanovic, & Cahalane
2019, Perth Review and Assessment of Critical IS Research
Beyond Bourdieu, Foucault and Habermas: Review and
Assessment of Critical Information Systems Research
Blair Wang
School of Information Systems and Technology Management
UNSW Business School
Sydney, Australia
Daniel Schlagwein
Discipline of Business Information Systems
The University of Sydney Business School
Sydney, Australia
Dubravka Cecez-Kecmanovic
School of Information Systems and Technology Management
UNSW Business School
Sydney, Australia
Michael C. Cahalane
School of Information Systems and Technology Management
UNSW Business School
Sydney, Australia
This paper presents a literature review of critical information systems (IS) research. Specifically, it
focuses on how IS researchers have responded to Myers and Klein’s (2011) call to consider critical
approaches and theorists in addition Bourdieu, Foucault and Habermas. The review identifies and
discusses three types of critical IS research “beyond Bourdieu, Foucault and Habermas”: work based on
a) (other) critical grand social theories, b) postcolonialism and c) data-focused critical methods (i.e.,
Capabilities Approach, Critical Discourse Analysis, Critical Heuristics and Design, Frame Analysis and
Phronetic Enquiry). Based on the literature review, the paper maps the landscape of critical approaches
and theories and identify their origins. This analysis is helpful for IS researchers interested in conducting
critical IS research by charting the range of critical research approaches beyond Bourdieu, Foucault and
Keywords: Critical Theory, Frankfurt School, social theorists, critical research, emancipation.
Australasian Conference on Information Systems Wang, Schlagwein, Cecez-Kecmanovic, & Cahalane
2019, Perth Review and Assessment of Critical IS Research
1 Introduction
The critical approach to information systems (IS) research, in line with this conference’s theme, seeks
to make the world a better place with IS(cf. Walsham 2012). Critical IS research works toward these
ends by highlighting social issues, potentially solvable with IS; or revealing cases in which IS brings
unintended negative consequences, to raise awareness and call for action. That is, critical IS research
does not only describe the world “as is” but also asks how could or should things be otherwise?”. It
seeks emancipation of people (e.g., citizens, workers, women, minorities, “the others”) currently
disadvantaged by power structures including those embedded in information systems. Critical IS
research is therefore differentiated from other research paradigms such as positivist and interpretivist
paradigms in that it not only seeks to understand and explain, but also seeks to empower and
emancipate (Cecez-Kecmanovic and Kennan 2013).
An centrally important paper in critical IS research is “A Set of Principles for Conducting Critical
Research in Information Systemsby Myers and Klein (2011). That paper introduces a set of six
principles of critical IS research. Of those six principles, the first principleusing central concepts from
critical social theorists” (p. 31) is of particular importance because it distinguishes critical IS research
from other approaches, including interpretivist IS research. That is, critical IS research does not merely
critique some IS phenomena in isolation, but endeavours to build on and contribute to an existing
critical discourse that may apply to IS phenomena. Accordingly, Myers and Klein (2011, p. 26) explicitly
warn that the lack of engagement with critical social theory in critical IS research limits the strategies
available to researchers seeking to explore the world critically.
In relation to this first principle, Myers and Klein (2011) discuss three theorists (Bourdieu, Foucault and
Habermas) as the by far most commonly used and cited. At the same time, they emphasise that “there
are many other critical theorists whose work could be very relevant” (p. 21) and call forthe introduction
of new authors into the critical stream of IS research” (p. 21). To date, there has been no review of how
the IS research community has responded to this call over the past decade. Our paper seeks therefore to
answer the research question: How has critical IS research been informed by critical approaches
beyond those of Bourdieu, Foucault and Habermas?
To answer this question, we conducted a literature review of critical IS research papers published in the
2010s (2011-2019). To find papers, we conducted searches for papers published at IS outlets that either
cite Myers and Klein’s (2011) paper (as a centrally important paper in critical IS research) or identify
themselves as critical IS research by using terms such as “critical social theory” or “emancipation” (more
details about the literature review method are provided in Section 2). We filtered the initial corpus of
649 papers down to 49 relevant papers. The analysis of these papers allowed us to identify several
categories of critical IS research. Beyond paper building on Bourdieu, Foucault and Habermas, we
classified research being based on a) other critical grand social theorists (e.g., first-generation Frankfurt
School), b) the work of postcolonial theorists and c) critical approaches focusing on particular form of
data collection or analysis (we refer to these as data-focused critical methodsto emphasise their
central concern with particular forms of data collection or analysis within a “critical theory” worldview).
This review is useful for researchers wishing to consider critical-theoretical approaches beyond
Bourdieu, Foucault and Habermas for studying IS phenomena.
The remainder of this paper is organised as follows. Section 2 describes the literature review process.
Section 3 discusses the above three critical-theoretical IS research approaches “beyond Bourdieu,
Foucault and Habermas” namely, approaches based on a) (other) critical grand social theorists, b)
postcolonialism and c) data-focused critical methods. Section 4 charts the overall landscapeof critical
(IS) theory and theorists. Section 5 concludes this paper by discussing its limitations and contributions.
2 Literature Review Method
Our literature corpus was constructed following a hermeneutic approach of conducting a literature
review (Boell and Cecez-Kecmanovic 2014).
We operationalised the approach through three initial database searches. The first database search used
Google Scholar’s forward citation tracking functionality to search for papers citing Myers and Klein
(2011). To capture any critical IS research not citing Myers and Klein (2011) but still engaging with
critical social theory, we performed two follow-up searches for critical social theory (“critical AND social
AND theory”) and emancipation (“emancipation OR emancipatory OR emancipate”) through a library
of 133 IS journals using our Scopus-based platform, (Boell and Wang 2019). Our
library of 133 journals consisted of journals included in the AIS Basket of 8, 41 AIS SIG journals, 35 IS
journals listed by Chan et al. (2015), and/or the 94 IS journals listed by Stewart et al. (2017).
Australasian Conference on Information Systems Wang, Schlagwein, Cecez-Kecmanovic, & Cahalane
2019, Perth Review and Assessment of Critical IS Research
As we read and analysed the 649 papers, we created categories and then compared, redefined,
sometimes removed, merged, separated and reconsidered them several times as our understanding
matured. This included both the descopedand “in scope” categories (Figure 1).
Figure 1. Sankey Diagram of Database Search Outcomes.
600 of 649 papers were “descoped” for different reasons. These reasons included: adopting Bourdieu,
Foucault or Habermas as their theorist of choice (descoped because of the particular intention of this
paper being to complement rather than replicate Myers and Klein’s 2011 analysis); being of an inherently
positivist or otherwise not-critical nature; presenting rather than using research methods; not
substantially engaging with critical theory or critical methods; not being about IS; being a duplicate; or
being unsuitable for any other reason (e.g., being written in a language that we were not able to read).
49 of 649 papers were “in scope” and are hence discussed in the next section.
3 Findings
The 49 papers can be classified into three categories based on the type of “critical theory” they are
locating themselves in.
3.1 Critical Grand Social Theory
Seven of the papers that we reviewed (see Figure 1) were informed by the work of theorists other than
Bourdieu, Foucault, and Habermas, but generally following the critical grand social theory tradition (i.e.,
theories about the overall power structures of the social world).
Some papers engaged with theories upstreamfrom these three core social theorists. That is, they
were based on older work than that of Bourdieu, Foucault, and Habermas. Most immediately upstream
from the core theorists is the early Frankfurt School (Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer, Herbert
Marcuse, themselves inspired by Karl Marx) whose original “critical theoryfoundation grounds critical
IS research approach (Myers and Klein 2011; Cecez-Kecmanovic 2011). These early Frankfurt School’s
(or “first-generation” Frankfurt School; Habermas can be seen as “second-generation” Frankfurt
School) concepts of culture industry, cultural commodificationand surplus exploitation, originally
developed in the age of industrial mass production, have been interpreted in the context of the digital
age by Christian Fuchs (2016) to develop a critical view of information technology. In the papers
reviewed, such a tradition has enabled broad theorisation about critical issues in the digital age
(Ossewaarde 2019), particularly in relation to social media (Jones 2017).
Some papers engaged with theories downstream from the core social theorists. That is, they were
based on later work than that of Bourdieu, Foucault and Habermas. Two examples in the papers
reviewed were based on developments of the work of Bourdieu. The first was Social Stratification
Theory, which extends Bourdieu’s concepts of social capitaland “habitus. This extension uses also
the work of Weber (1978) to understand how groups of individuals are formed into different classes
within a stratification scheme determined by their situation/location, norms/values, and
intention/purpose, and, in a critical IS context, enables a deeper understand of how researchers may
focus too much on certain stakeholders in IS projects while erroneously overlooking others (Berente et
al. 2011). The other example in this category was Social Capital Theory, which extends Bourdieu’s
Australasian Conference on Information Systems Wang, Schlagwein, Cecez-Kecmanovic, & Cahalane
2019, Perth Review and Assessment of Critical IS Research
concept of social capital and habitus. This extension uses the work of Putnam (2000) who introduces
concepts of bonding capital (between those who are similar) and bridging capital(between those
who are different) and, in a critical IS context, enables a deeper understanding of democracy and
discourse in the age of social media (O'Hallarn 2016; Ali et al. 2019). We recognise that, as with all
theories and theorists discussed in this paper, not every application of Social Capital Theory in IS
research results in critical IS research. However, the examples here show the potential for Social Capital
Theory to inform critical IS research when applied critically.
Using critical theory in IS research has often produced theorisations about the emergent global
structures that recent trends in technology are creating. One such theory, building directly on Fuchs’
work, is an IS interpretation of World Systems Theory as exemplified by Lennerfors et al. (2015) to
develop a holistic view of the ecological impact of IS artefacts, with the view that the global economy is
composed of stratified levels of economic power ranging from a wealthycoreto an underpaid
periphery. However, we observed two other theories regarding technology on a global scale. One was
the concept ofheteromation(Ekbia and Nardi 2014). In a heteromation view of the world, IT-enabled
automation and job redundancy are gradually reducing human workers to units of computation –
referred to ashuman computationin the crowdsourcing literature (Schlagwein et al. 2019, p. 814)
that can be given input data and produce useful outputs just like a computer, albeit capable of uniquely
creative types of processing that computers are not (yet) capable of. One article (Bailey et al. 2018)
provides insights about the differences between two types of heteromatedlabour (cognitive vs.
emotional) previously described by Ekbia and Nardi (2017), as implemented in a bank-related
information system, and how workers in such arrangements conceptualise their role in the system.
Lenartowicz (2017), however, critiques such “pessimistic AI takeover scenarios” (Lenartowicz 2017, p.
35) by presenting an alternative theoretical explanation, that of the global brain. In this alternative
view, the modern interconnected world is one big conscious being encompassing the entire planet,
forming a brain-like structure in which networks of humans and electronic computers are comparable
to neurons in a biological brain. In this view, then, increases in automation and heteromation do not
represent the hegemony of machine over human, but instead, an opportunity to facilitate peaceful
coexistence and mutual emancipation.
3.2 Postcolonialism (Said, Spivak, Bhabha)
Nine of the papers that we reviewed (see Figure 1) were informed by postcolonialism. Postcolonial theory
sensitises researchers to the harmful effects of colonialism. Myers and Klein (2011, p. 21) had suggested
that critical IS research could or should draw on postcolonial theory.
In response to such suggestions, and based on prior work (Ravishankar et al. 2013), Tsibolane and
Brown (2016) identified three streams of literature corresponding to three postcolonial theorists:
Edward Saïd, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak and Homi K. Bhabha. In the first stream, postcolonial theory
enables the understanding of not just the current state but also the historical conditions leading to it.
For example, due to the historical dominance of the West (Europe) over the East (Asia), early research
in this stream focused on such orientalistanalysis as centrally exemplified by Edward Saïd’s (1978)
book Orientalism”. In the second stream, postcolonial theory stems from Antonio Gramsci’s (1971)
concept of hegemony: the culture and discourse created by those in power (the hegemon”) to
maintain dominance over a subordinate group (the subaltern”). A pivotal theorist in this stream is
Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (1988) who describes hegemony beyond simply one culture over another,
but also, for example, cases of gender discrimination. Finally, the third stream focuses on how the
cultures of the hegemon and the subaltern blend together. Ravishankar et al. (2013) draw particular
attention to Homi K. Bhabha’s (1994) description of how the process ofmimicry(wherein the
subaltern copies the cultural practices of the hegemon) blends with the subaltern’s existing cultural
practices, creating patterns of hybridity”. Similar to the three core social theorists, the three streams of
postcolonial theory are not mutually exclusive and build upon one another. Papers that we reviewed
drew on all three to understand IS implementation in indigenous communities (Lin et al. 2015), IS
development offshoring (Ravishankar et al. 2013; Ayoung 2016), and postcolonial theory in library and
information sciences (LIS) research (Khanal 2012).
Of the nine papers we reviewed in this category, six were about ICT4D. Indeed, Tsibolane and Brown
(2016) explicitly target their principles towards ICT4D research, and Lin et al. (2015) frame their work
as an example of ICT4D in the context of Taiwan’s indigenous population. The paper by Ravishankar et
al (2013) is actually unusual among IS papers with a postcolonial perspective in that it is not about
ICT4D. These ICT4D postcolonial papers (Dé et al. 2017; Krauss 2012; Lin et al. 2015; Masiero 2018;
Tsibolane and Brown 2016; Young 2017) often cite Avgerou’s (2008) critique of ICT4D projects failing
to consider sociocultural conditions such as those highlighted by postcolonial theory. They also often
Australasian Conference on Information Systems Wang, Schlagwein, Cecez-Kecmanovic, & Cahalane
2019, Perth Review and Assessment of Critical IS Research
draw from other theories beyond postcolonial theory, including Arturo Escobar’s (1992) development
theory (Dé et al. 2017; Krauss 2012), Partha Chatterjee’s (2004)politics of the governed(Masiero
2018), Paulo Freire’s (1970) pedagogy of the oppressed (Young 2017) and, of course, Bourdieu’s
practice theory (Krauss 2012).
3.3 Data-Focused Critical Methods
33 of the papers that we reviewed (see Figure 1) were informed by critical theory” in the form of critical
methods. That is, the reviewed papers cite particular critical methods as their key critical reference.
These critical methods include the Capabilities Approach, Critical Discourse Analysis, Critical Heuristics
and Design, Frames Analysis and Phronetic Enquiry.
The Capabilities Approach sensitises researchers to the importance of free choice when assessing the
benefits of IS. The core concepts in Capabilities Approach are functionings(the activities in some
practice, for example using the functionalities provided by an IS) and capabilities” (the freedom to
choose between functionings at one’s own discretion) (Sen 1990, pp. 43-44). It is of note that the
Capabilities Approach is an economic theory critiquing utilitarian economics, describing the true
condition of people (e.g., in developing nations) according to their freedom rather than their supposed
wealth (Sen 1990, pp. 45-48). However, the Capabilities Approach has been applied in critical IS
research to appreciate how mobile phones’ capabilities empower refugees (Bisimwa 2017), how Internet
connectivity’s capabilities empower indigenous populations (de Ville de Goyet 2017), how cocreated
technology assets’ capabilities empower underserved communities (Lorini 2018), how IS projects’
capabilities could empower workers in a developing nation (Takavarasha et al. 2013; Takavarasha et al.
2017; Poveda and Roberts 2017) and how Design Science Research could be shaped into a vehicle for
incremental societal improvement (Heusinger 2014). While these examples may seem to present an
inherently optimistic view, this is not the case. For example, Bisimwa et al. (2018) describe how power
relations can impede capabilities provided by mobile phones. Similarly, Maiye (2012) describes how a
government IS project failed because the expected capabilities were not realised due to broader
sociocultural issues including corruption, tribalism, bureaucracy and scepticism.
Critical Discourse Analysis sensitises researchers to the meanings of signs and symbols in discourse
about IS. In the papers reviewed; some papers cited key pioneers in the development of Critical
Discourse Analysis variants as their theorists of choice. Many papers (Stahl et al. 2012; Albert and Salam
2013; Albert 2014; Lemmetti 2016; Pozzebon et al. 2016; Hur et al. 2019) cite Norman Fairclough’s
(2012) approach, which focuses on analysing how text creates meaning between interlocuters, as well as
how text and speech create sociocultural institutions and practices. Other papers (Mpazanje and
Chigona 2012; Krauss 2015) cite James Paul Gee’s (2008) approach, which is influenced by Foucault’s
ideas of discursive power construction and sensitises researchers to power relations evident in the
linguistic details of a text.
Two methods in the papers that we reviewed proposed guidelines for IS design and implementation as
a form of critical IS research, what we broadly could call Critical Heuristics and Design. Such guidelines
sensitise researchers to the impacts of IS in cases where there is a diverse range of stakeholders. One
example is known as Critical and Participatory Design, a design philosophy based on public engagement
and iterative prototyping (Nold 2015). Another example is the set of Critical Social Heuristics introduced
by Ulrich (1987) to assess the full social impact of IS development projects. The guidelines consist of
twelve questions that project decision-makers ought to ask, ranging from who ought to be the
beneficiary of the system?” to what are the worldviews of all those affected by the system?” (Ulrich 1987,
p. 279). In the reviewed papers, we predominantly observed the use of Critical Heuristics and Design as
a set of guiding principles for conducting socially-beneficial Action Researchcritical in the sense of
critiquing the current state of the world and seeking an improvement through IS-based interventions
(Goede 2014a; Goede 2014b; Goede and Harmse 2014; Venter and Goede 2015; Taylor and Goede 2015;
Goede 2016; Goede and Taylor 2016; Pinzon-Salcedo and Torres-Cuello 2018). This stream of research
explicitly identifies itself as critical IS research, in one instance explicitly tabulating its analysis against
Myers and Klein’s principle of using core concepts from critical theorists with the statement: “we are
using critical social heuristics of Ulrich (1983) to guide our understanding of the problem situation
during the diagnosis phase of our action research study” (Taylor and Goede 2015, p. 107). One paper is
describing a research study in which Critical Social Heuristics is used outside of an Action Research
setting and to critically assess an IS implementation in a publicly-funded emergency services
organisation (Johnstone and Tate 2017).
Two methods in the papers that we reviewed use the analysis of interpretative framings” as the basis
for critical IS research. These are similar to Critical Discourse Analysis but instead of focusing on
linguistic features, they consider the broader perspectives adopted by stakeholders. This is broadly
Australasian Conference on Information Systems Wang, Schlagwein, Cecez-Kecmanovic, & Cahalane
2019, Perth Review and Assessment of Critical IS Research
known as Frame Analysis (Goffman 1974), which informed Kidd’s (2011) critique of the use of IS
technologies in art galleries. More specifically applied to IS contexts, the Technological Frames of
Reference method sensitises researchers to the discrepancies in how a technology is understood
depending on the level of contextualisation. At the first level (nature of technology), there is no context;
at the second level (technology strategy), there is a broad context such as industry or organisation; at
the third and final level (technology in use), there is a specific context of technology interacting directly
with users (Orlikowski and Gash 1994, p. 25). For each level of contextualisation, different stakeholders
have different interpretations or frames. These frames, varying across people and levels of technology
contextualisation, allow researchers to critique, for example, the claim of “successful IS implementation
by revealing the ambiguity of how “success” is interpreted (Orlikowski and Gash 1994). In the papers
that we reviewed, we identified one paper (Cranefield et al. 2018) using a the Technological Frames of
Reference approach to critique both a case of government IS project failure and its later representation
in satirical public discourse.
Finally, Phronetic Enquiry sensitises researchers to the need for wisdom and practical judgement, not
just information and facts. Phronetic Enquiry comes from Aristotle’s concept of phronesiswherein
wisdom is a third kind of knowledge distinct from declarative/scientific (episteme) knowledge and
procedural/engineering (techné) knowledge (Ngwenyama et al. 2018). Our literature review did not
reveal a consensus how Phronetic Enquiry is performed. For Ngwenyama et al. (2018) and their analysis
of a failed IS implementation project, Phronetic Enquiry is a distinct kind of Critical Discourse Analysis
that seeks to understand how wise or unwise decisions are made. For Pauleen et al. (2016) and their
analysis of Big Data, Phronetic Enquiry (or, Social Practice Wisdom, as they call it) is about augmenting
episteme and techné with ethics and aesthetics. For Krauss et al. (2015) and their ICT4D study,
Phronetic Enquiry is about rejecting the pressure for social sciences to mimic the natural sciences’
obsession with values-free and methodologically rigorous-research, instead recognising wisdom-
producing social sciences research as that which is values-laden and contextually-relevant.
4 Landscape of Critical (IS) Theory
As per the above analysis, critical IS researchers refer to a diverse range of critical theorists and apply
their theories to examine and reveal negative social implications of IS or to address social concerns
(poverty, inequality, discrimination) via IS. This needs to be brought into a larger, historical picture.
The diverse landscape of critical theory available to critical IS researchers, as per the papers reviewed,
is summarised in Figure 2 below. This diagram places the core group of Bourdieu, Foucault and
Habermas, but shows the diverse variety of critical theories and theorists that are part of the critical
research tradition. The purpose of the diagram is to summarise the many options available to critical IS
researchers and the origins and relations of these options.
Australasian Conference on Information Systems Wang, Schlagwein, Cecez-Kecmanovic, & Cahalane
2019, Perth Review and Assessment of Critical IS Research
Figure 2. Mapping the Landscape of Critical (IS) Theory.
Figure 2 plots the development of the theories and methods discussed above in such a way that illustrates
the lineage of families of theories over time. The arrow trace the lineages of theories from their
foundations in three different traditions of ethics in ancient (Greek) philosophy as per Stahl’s (2008;
2012) analysis. The landscape of critical (IS) research is held together by a shared concern with “ethical
questions”, even if there are different foundational ideas as how to establish “ethicality”. Solid lines in
Figure 2 indicate an explicit continuation of a lineage whereas dotted lines indicate more indirect
influence. The “extended corehas its foundations in deontological ethics according to which particular
arrangements are inherently wrong (e.g. exploitation). In contrast, many “critical methods(e.g. the
Capabilities Approach) can be linked to consequentialist assessments of arrangements on a case-by-case
of its utilitarian outcomes. Phronetic Enquiry is based on Aristotle’s concept of wisdom and follows in
the tradition of virtue ethics.
5 Conclusion
This paper contributes to critical IS research. It reveals a landscape of critical IS research grounded in
and engaged with a range of critical social theories and theorists. It depicts the lineage of families of
critical theories over time and in key ideas. This is important for understanding the development of
critical IS research and its relevance for addressing a wide range of ICT implications for individuals,
organisations and societies. The paper seeks to inspire and empower IS researchers interested in a
critical approach to IS research. In particular, it reveals critical approaches adopting a variety of theories
beyond Bourdieusian, Foucauldian or Habermasian perspectives.
We acknowledge several limitations inherent in our approach. We have taken research published since
Myers and Klein (2011) as a sample of critical IS research. While this has been fruitful, we acknowledge
that the full landscape is even broader. There are opportunities for follow-up studies that extend beyond
2011-2019 (in both directions, accounting for earlier and later work). Concerns with (and searches for)
“discrimination”, “inequality”, “oppression”, “exploitation”, “domination”, “self-actualisation”,
“liberation”, etc. may reveal other approaches that could be classified as “critical”. Also, critical IS
research needs to be seen in relation to critical management/business research more widely, work in the
field of philosophy of technology and, generally, critical studies in any contemporary academic field.
As per literature review outcomes in Figure 1, there are almost as many criticalIS research papers that
do not engage with critical social theory as there are “critical” papers that do. While there may be
numerous reasons for work outside a particular tradition, some authors may simply not be familiar with
Australasian Conference on Information Systems Wang, Schlagwein, Cecez-Kecmanovic, & Cahalane
2019, Perth Review and Assessment of Critical IS Research
the entirety of critical theory and research options available. The landscape that we have illustrated here
(Figure 2) outlines a rich intellectual base that invites IS researches to both engage with and contribute
to its development. The purpose of this review and overview is, in line with this conference’s theme, to
help make the world a better place with information systemsby clearly outlining the landscape of
critical IS research approaches and encourage the continuation of this important research tradition.
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One of the co-authors of this paper is conducting this research with the assistance of the Commonwealth
of Australia through an Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship.
Copyright: © 2019 Wang, Schlagwein, Cecez-Kecmanovic & Cahalane. This is an open-access article
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License, which permits non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided
the original author and ACIS are credited.
... The empirical content criteria noted in Table 2 helped limit the search to studies likely to have tested evidence of what works in IS use in social care. This excluded many theoretical or critical social policy studies, though they provided contextual information (Gillingham, 2014a(Gillingham, , 2017Parrott & Madoc-Jones, 2008;Parton, 2009;Wang et al., 2019;Wastell, McMaster, & Kawalek, 2007). A final exclusion criterion to determine the mapping starting point identified instances of multiple articles based on the same case study. ...
Information systems (IS) are increasingly used in social care agencies. This scoping review examined the research literature to identity practical knowledge relevant to social care agencies introducing IS. Selected studies documented elements of practical knowledge, though this was not the direct focus of any individual article. A synthesis of the 50 selected studies into a themed matrix highlighted the practical knowledge gap for social care agencies, and community service agencies in particular. This review identified two features critical to generating relevant practical knowledge: the participatory role of the researcher-designer, and the active role of IS participants.
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Crowdsourcing practices have generated much discussion on their ethics and fairness, yet these topics have received little scholarly investigation. Some have criticized crowdsourcing for worker exploitation and for undermining workplace regulations. Others have lauded crowdsourcing for enabling workers' autonomy and allowing disadvantaged people to access previously unreachable job markets. In this paper, we examine the ethics in crowdsourcing practices by focusing on three questions: a) what ethical issues exist in crowdsourcing practices? b) are ethical norms emerging or are issues emerging that require ethical norms? and, more generally, c) how can the ethics of crowdsourcing practices be established? We answer these questions by engaging with Jürgen Habermas' (Habermas 1990; Habermas 1993) discourse ethics theory to interpret findings from a longitudinal field study (from 2013-2016) involving key crowdsourcing participants (workers, platform organizers and requesters) of three crowdsourcing communities. Grounded in this empirical study, we identify ethical concerns and discuss the ones for which ethical norms have emerged as well as others which remain unresolved and problematic in crowdsourcing practices. Furthermore, we provide normative considerations of how ethical concerns can be identified, discussed and resolved based on the principles of discourse ethics.
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Critical research has been advocated as capable to uncover multiple contradictions in ICT-induced development processes. This paper explores the potential of subaltern studies to contribute to the generation of critical theory in ICT4D. Following the postcolonial thought of Partha Chatterjee, the paper proposes a vision of subalternity centred on technologies of rule that concur to devoicing the marginalised. The theory is used to examine the computerisation of a large Indian social protection scheme, illustrating how processes of digitalisation, formally aimed at the empowerment of recipients, actually resulted in the systematic crystallisation of alienating power structures in the programme. This resulted in the further devoicing of the wageseekers that the scheme should have empowered, casting doubt on the image of a pro-poor “digital India” represented in mainstream narratives. Used as analytical framework, subalternity theory makes it possible to represent the views of the devoiced and marginalised, hence contributing to enacting the emancipatory purpose of critical theory in ICT4D.
Many individuals go to online health communities to obtain emotional and information support. This study employs critical discourse analysis (CDA) to examine the discourse in five online childhood immunization forums to identify online practices related to engagement and emancipation. We identify four online engagement discourse types in online health communities: cognitive, emotional, behavioural, and political. Consistent with our critical perspective, we identify drivers and obstacles to emancipation. The obstacles to emancipation include the adverse consequences of building online knowledge and collective intelligence, shifts in patient–physician relationships, and “Big” institutional power. Members’ suggestions for empowering community members include encouraging members to conduct their own research on childhood immunization and to differentiate between facts and opinions. These findings suggest that sensemaking is one way to emancipate online health community members, while highlighting the challenges of using online communities to promote emancipation.
In this article, it is argued that social theory must be renewed to comprehend the new power constellations and new challenges to aesthetic and intellectual ways of life that are being shaped by digital transformation. However, while social theory has to renew its tools in order to grasp previously unknown realities, it also runs the risk of being assimilated into the very process that it seeks to understand, or to assimilate so much of the dominant belief system that it loses its critical and creative potential. The aim of this article is to propose a particular, renewed social theory that consists in a recasting some social theoretic insights to be able to preserve aesthetic and intellectual potentials of critique and negation. Through the lens of this renewed social theory, digital transformation is understood as a form of economic domination, which, as this article shows, is sustained by un-enlightenment, that is, by fraudulent myths and misplaced metaphors.
There has been a growing debate about the extent to which social media has influenced the Arab World's recent revolutions described as the “Arab Spring”. Despite difference in views concerning this issue, the role that social media played in enacting socio-political change is undeniable, a matter which attracted the interest of academia. Here, the power of social media in widening and strengthening relationships renovated and reinforced the concept of “social capital”, which could lead to integration or acculturation among affected societies. Underpinned by a social capital theory and the acculturation process, this commentary article adopts a critical approach and draws on historical events from the 2011 Egyptian revolution and beyond. We claim that, social media lead to social capital creation and integration when some fundamental associated factors exist namely: the bonding, bridging and linking factors. Social media adoption lead to political integration when these factors existed during the Egyptian revolution and lead to polarisation when there was no contextual triggering factor before the revolution and no access to resources after the revolution. We provide some insightful perspectives on the role of social media in social-political change.
This section presents the third volume of Max Weber's fundamental work Economy and Society which has been translated into Russian for the first time. The third volume includes two works devoted to the sociology of law. The first, 'The Economy and Laws', discusses differences between sociological and juridical approaches to studies of social processes. It describes peculiarities of normative power arenas (orders) at different levels and demonstrates how they influence the economy. The second, 'Economy and Law' ('Sociology of Law'), reviews the evolution of law orders (primarily, the three "greatest systems of law" including Roman Law, Anglo-American Law, and European Continental Law) in the context of changes in the organization of economy and structures of dominancy. Law is considered an influential factor of the rationalization of social life which in turn is affected by a rationalized economy and social management. The Journal of Economic Sociology here publishes an excerpt from the chapter 'Law, Convention and Custom' in this third volume, which shows the role of the habitual in the formation of law; explains the importance of intuition and empathy for the emergence of new orders; and discusses the changeable borders between law, convention and custom. The translation is edited by Leonid Ionin and the chapter is published with the permission of HSE Publishing House. © 2018 National Research University Higher School of Economics. All rights reserved.