Advertisement

Ethics and Information Technology

, Volume 8, Issue 3, pp 97–108 | Cite as

Emancipation in cross-cultural IS research: The fine line between relativism and dictatorship of the intellectual

Article

Abstract

Critical research is becoming increasingly accepted as a valid approach to research in information systems. It is deemed to be particularly suitable for situations where researchers want to address conspicuous injustice, such as in areas of development or the digital divide. Critical research in information systems (CRIS), I will argue, is a possible approach to some of the ethical problems arising in the context of information and communication technology (ICT). It can be sensitive to the question of culture and therefore suitable for researching cross-cultural ethical questions in ICT. It is often unclear, however, what exactly critical research stands for and to what extent critical approaches are applicable across cultural boundaries. This paper will address these problems by proposing a definition of critical research as focused on changing the status quo and aiming for emancipation. It will then look at the question whether different cultures are compatible and comparable and what the role of culture in research on information systems is. The paper will then return to the question whether the critical intention to emancipate and empower humans is an expression of cultural imperialism or whether there are valid ways of promoting emancipation across cultural divides.

Keywords

critical research cross-cultural research culture emancipation information systems 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. S. Abdat and G.P. Pervan. Reducing the Negative Effects of Power Distance During Asynchronous Pre-Meeting with Using Anonymity in Indonesian Culture. In F. Sudweeks and C. Ess, editors, Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Cultural Attitudes towards Technology and Communication, pp. 209–215. Murdoch, Western Australia, June 2000. Murdoch University Press, Murdoch, WAGoogle Scholar
  2. Alvesson M., Deetz S. (2000)Doing Critical Management Research. SAGE, LondonGoogle Scholar
  3. Alvesson M., Willmott H. (1992) On the Idea of Emancipation in Management and Organization Studies. Academy of Management Review 17(3): 432–464CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barbar B. (1995) Jihad versus McWorld. Times Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  5. Beck U. (1998)Was ist Globalisierung? Irrtümer des Globalismus - Antworten auf Globalisierung.5, Suhrkamp Verlag, Frankfurt a. MGoogle Scholar
  6. F. Bell and A. Adam. Whatever Happened to Information Systems Ethics? Caught between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. In B. Kaplan, D.P. Truex, D. Wastell, A.T.␣Wood-Harper and J. DeGross, editors, Information Systems Research: Relevant Theory and Informed Practice (IFIP 8.2 Proceedings), pp. 159–174. Kluwer, Dordrecht, 2004Google Scholar
  7. R.W. Berne. Recognizing Religious Mythology in Visions of New Technology. IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, 22(1): 34–39, 2003Google Scholar
  8. Brooke C. (2002a) Critical Perspectives on Information Systems: An Impression of the Research Landscape. Journal of Information Technology 17: 271–283CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Brooke C. (2002b) What Does it Mean to be ‘Critical’ in IS Research? Journal of Information Technology 17: 49–57CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Burrell G., Dale K. (2003) Building Better Worlds?: Architecture and Critical Management Studies. In: Alvesson M., Willmott H. (eds.) Studying Management Critically. SAGE, London, pp. 177–196Google Scholar
  11. Castells M. (2000) The Information Age: Economy, Society, and Culture. Volume I: The Rise of the Network Society. 2nd edition, Blackwell, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  12. Castells M. (2000b) The Information Age: Economy, Society, and Culture. Volume III: End of Millennium. 2nd edition Blackwell, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  13. Cecez-Kecmanovic D. (2001) Doing Critical IS Research: The Question of Methodology. In: Trauth E. (ed.) Qualitative Research in IS: Issues and Trends. Idea Group Publishing, Hershey, pp. 141–162Google Scholar
  14. Cecez-Kecmanovic D., Janson M., Brown A. (2002) The Rationality Framework for a Critical Study of Information Systems. Journal of Information Technology 17: 215–227CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Chua W.F. (1986) Radical Developments in Accounting Thought. The Accounting Review 61(4): 601–632Google Scholar
  16. C. Ciborra. A Critical Review of the Literature on the Management of Corporate Information Infrastructure. In C. Ciborra and Associates, editors, From Control to Drift: The Dynamics of Corporate Information Infrastructures, pp. 15–40. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  17. Dawson R.J., Newman I.A. (2002) Empowerment in IT Education. Journal of Information Technology Education 1(2): 125–141Google Scholar
  18. Ess C. (2001) Introduction: What’s Culture Got to Do with It? Cultural Collisions in the Electronic Global Village, Creative Inferences, and the Rise of Culturally-Mediated Computing. In: Ess C., Sudweeks F. (eds.) Culture, Technology, Communication: Towards and Intercultural Global Village. SUNY Press, Albany, pp. 1–52Google Scholar
  19. Fairclough N. (2003) Analysing Discourse – Textual Analysis for Social Research. Routledge, London & New YorkGoogle Scholar
  20. Floridi L. (1999) Philosophy and Computing: An Introduction. Routledge, LondonMATHGoogle Scholar
  21. Forester J. (1992) Critical Ethnography: On Fieldwork in a Habermasian Way. In: Alvesson M., Willmott H. (eds.) Critical Management Studies. SAGE, London, pp. 46–65Google Scholar
  22. Gehlen A. (1997) Der Mensch: seine Natur und seine Stellung in der Welt. 13th edition, UTB, WiesbadenGoogle Scholar
  23. Heng M.S.H., de Moor A. (2003) From Habermas’s Communicative Theory to Practice on the Internet. Information Systems Journal 13: 331–352CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Himanen P. (2001) The Hacker Ethic and the Spirit of the Information Age. Secker & Warburg, LondonGoogle Scholar
  25. Hirschheim R., Klein H.K. (1994) Realizing Emancipatory Principles in Information Systems Development: The Case for ETHICS. MIS Quarterly 18(1): 83–109CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hirschheim R., Klein H. (1989) Four Paradigms of Information Systems Development. Communications of the ACM 32(10): 1199–1216CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Höffe O. (1995) Moral als Preis der Moderne: ein Versuch über Wissenschaft, Technik und Umwelt. 3rd edition, Suhrkamp, Frankfurt a. MGoogle Scholar
  28. D. Howcroft and E.M. Trauth. The Choice of Critical Information Systems Research. In B. Kaplan, D.P. Truex, D. Wastell, A.T. Wood-Harper and J. DeGross, editors, Information Systems Research: Relevant Theory and Informed Practice (IFIP 8.2 Proceedings), pp. 196–211. Kluwer, Dordrecht, 2004Google Scholar
  29. Huntington S. (1993) The Clash of Civilisations? Foreign Affairs Summer 72(3): 22–49Google Scholar
  30. Jermier J.M., Forbes L.C. (2003) Greening Organizations: Critical Issues. In: Alvesson M., Willmott H. (eds.) Studying Management Critically. SAGE, London, pp. 157–176Google Scholar
  31. Klein H.K., Huynh M.Q. (2004) The Critical Social Theory of Jürgen Habermas and its Implications for IS Research. In: Mingers J., Willcocks L. (eds.) Social Theory and Philosophy for Information Systems. Wiley, Chichester, pp. 157–237Google Scholar
  32. Kvwasny L., Greenhill A., Trauth E. (2005) Giving Voice to Feminist Projects in MIS Research. International Journal of Technology and Human Interaction 1(1): 1–18Google Scholar
  33. Kvasny L., Trauth E. (2003) The Digital Divide at Work and Home: The Discourse about Power and Underrepresented Groups in the Information Society. In: Wynn E., Whitley E., Myers M.D., DeGross J. (eds.) Global and Organizational Discourse About Information Technology. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, pp. 273–291Google Scholar
  34. R. Lenoir. Entretien avec René Lenoir. In F. Lenoir, editor, Le temps de la responsabilité — Entretiens sur l’éthique, pp.␣97–118. Fayard, Paris, 1991Google Scholar
  35. Levy D.L., Alvesson M., Willmitt H. (2003) Critical Approaches to Strategic Management. In: Alvesson M., Willmott H. (eds.) Studying Management Critically. SAGE, London, pp. 92–110Google Scholar
  36. Maitland C.F., Bauer J.M. (2001) National Level Culture and Global Diffusion: The Case of the Internet. In: Ess C., Sudweeks F. (eds.) Culture, Technology, Communication: Towards and Intercultural Global Village. SUNY Press, Albany, pp. 87–129Google Scholar
  37. Marx K. (1969) Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei. Reclam, StuttgartGoogle Scholar
  38. K. Marx. In I. Fetscher, editor, Karl Marx/Friedrich Engels Studienausgabe, vol. 1. Fischer Philosophie, Frankfurt a.␣M, 1964Google Scholar
  39. McAulay L., Doherty N., Keval N. (2002) The Stakeholder Dimension in Information Systems Evaluation. Journal of Information Technology 17: 241–255CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. K. McGrath, Doing Critical Research in Information Systems: A Case of Theory and Practice Not Informing Each Other. Information Systems Journal, 15: 85–101, 2005Google Scholar
  41. Mingers J. (1992) Technical, Practical and Critical OR – Past, Present and Future? In: Alvesson M., Willmott H. (eds.) Critical Management Studies. SAGE, London, pp. 90–113Google Scholar
  42. Ngwenyama O.K., Lee A.S. (1997) Communication Richness in Electronic Mail: Critical Social Theory and the Contextuality of Meaning. MIS Quarterly 21(2): 145–167CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Nord W.R., Jermier J.M. (1992) Critical Social Science for Managers? Promising and Perverse Possibilities. In: Alvesson M., Willmott H. (eds.) Critical Management Studies. SAGE, London, pp. 202–222Google Scholar
  44. B.J. Oates. Action Research: Time to Take a Turn? In B. Kaplan, D.P. Truex, D. Wastell, A.T. Wood-Harper and J. DeGross, editors, Information Systems Research: Relevant Theory and Informed Practice (IFIP 8.2 Proceedings), pp. 315–333. Kluwer, Dordrecht, 2004Google Scholar
  45. Orlikowski W.J., Baroudi J.J. (1991) Studying Information Technology in Organizations: Research Approaches and Assumptions. Information Systems Research 2(1): 1–28CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Orlikowski W.J., Iacono C.S. (2001) Research Commentary: Desperately Seeking the “IT” in IT Research – A Call to Theorizing the IT Artifact. Information Systems Research 12(2): 121–134CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Postman N. (1992) Technopoly – The Surrender of Culture to Technology. Vintage Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  48. Probert S.K. (2002) Ethics, Authenticity and Emancipation in Information Systems Development. In: Salehnia, Ali (ed.) Ethical Issues of Information Systems. IRM Press, Hershey, PA, pp. 249–254Google Scholar
  49. Rey L. (2001) Cultural Attitudes toward Technology and Communication: A Study in the “Multi-cultural” Environment of Switzerland. In: Ess C., Sudweeks F. (ed.) Culture, Technology, Communication: Towards and Intercultural Global Village. SUNY Press, Albany, pp. 151–160Google Scholar
  50. Ricoeur P. (1983) Tems et récit – 1. L’intrigue et le récit historique. Editions de Seuil, ParisGoogle Scholar
  51. Riis A.M. (1997) The Information Welfare Society: An Assessment of Danish Governmental Initiatives Preparing for the Information Age. In: Kahin B., Wilson E.J. (eds) National Information Infrastructure Initiatives Vision and Policy Design. MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, pp. 424–456Google Scholar
  52. Robey D., Azevedo A. (1994) Cultural Analysis of the Organizational Consequences of Information Technology. Accounting, Management and Information Technologies 1(4): 23–37CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Saravanamuthu K. (2002) Information Technology and Ideology. Journal of Information Technology 17: 79–87CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Schultze U., Leidner D. (2002) Studying Knowledge Management in Information Systems Research: Discourses and Theoretical Assumptions. MIS Quarterly 26(3): 213–242Google Scholar
  55. Stahl B.C., El-Beltagi I. (2004) Cultural Universality versus Particularity in CMC. Journal of Global Information Technology Management 7(4): 47–65Google Scholar
  56. Trauth E. (2001) Choosing Qualitative Methods in IS Research: Lessons Learned. In: Trauth E. (eds.) Qualitative Research in IS: Issues and Trends. Idea Group Publishing, Hershey 271–287Google Scholar
  57. Trauth E., O’Connor B. (1991) A Study of the Interaction Between Information Technology and Society: An Illustration of Combined Qualitative Research Methods. In: Nissen H.-E., Klein H.K., Hirschheim R. (eds.) Information Systems Research: Contemporary Approaches & Emergent Traditions. North Holland, Amsterdam, pp. 131–144Google Scholar
  58. Ulrich W. (2001) A Philosophical Staircase for Information Systems Definition, Design, and Development. Journal of Information Technology Theory and Application 3(3): 55–84Google Scholar
  59. Varey R.J. Wood-Harper T., Wood B. (2002) A Theoretical Review of Management and Information Systems Using a Critical Communications Theory. Journal of Information Technology 17: 229–239CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Walsham G. (2002) Cross-Cultural Software Production and Use: A Structurational Analysis. MIS Quarterly 26(4): 359–380Google Scholar
  61. Walsham G. (2001) Making a World of Difference – IT in a Global Context. Wiley, ChichesterGoogle Scholar
  62. Walsham G. (1993) Interpreting Information Systems in Organizations. Wiley, ChichesterGoogle Scholar
  63. J. Ward and J. Peppard. Reconciling the IT/business relationship: A troubled marriage in need of guidance. Journal of Strategic Information Systems, 5: 37–65, 1996Google Scholar
  64. Weber M. (1994) Objectivity and understanding in economics. In: Hausman D.M. (ed.) The Philosophy of Economics: An Anthology. 2nd edition, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 69–82Google Scholar
  65. J.Y. Weisinger and E. Trauth. Situating Culture in the Global Information Sector. Information Technology & People, 15(4): 306–320, 2002Google Scholar
  66. Weizenbaum J. (1976) Computer Power and Human Reason. W. H. Freeman and Company, San FranciscoGoogle Scholar
  67. Wilson F.A. (1997) The Truth is Out There: the Search for Emancipatory Principles in Information Systems Design. Information Technology & People 10(3): 187–204CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Wilson M. (2003) Rhetoric of Enrollment and Acts of Resistance: Information Technology as Text. In: Wynn E., Whitley E., Myers M.D., DeGross J. (eds.) Global and Organizational Discourse About Information Technology. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, pp. 225–248Google Scholar
  69. Wyatt S., Thomas G., Terranova T. (2002) They Came, They Surfed, They Went Back to the Beach: Conceptualizing Use and Non-Use of the Internet. In: Woolgar S. (ed.) Virtual Society? Technology, Cyberbole, Reality. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 23–40Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Computing and Social ResponsibilityDe Montfort UniversityLeicesterUK

Personalised recommendations