Systems practice

, Volume 8, Issue 5, pp 517–536 | Cite as

Information and the mechanistic metaphor: The place of information in organizational thought

  • Richard Kamm
Redesigning The Future


The purpose of this paper is to examine the possibilities for extending organisational metaphors into the area of information systems. The mechanistic metaphor is used as a relevant example because analysing the assumptions behind it offers a particularly revealing insight into common assumptions in the field of management studies and information systems. These assumptions were developed in a specific historical context, that of the development of bureaucratic forms in a government and industry and the acceptance of what Weber described as “instrumental rationality.” Three elements of a characteristically mechanistic view of information management are identified: corporate ownership of information, a formal division of information work and a definition of the nature of information as data whose meaning is noncontroversial. It is argued that this view of information is too restricted to allow for creative development of information use, but that the corporate ownership of information continues to be relevant because of the notion of formal rights which has been developed from it.

Key words

information organizational metaphors information management bureaucracy 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard Kamm
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ComputingUniversity of the West of EnglandBristol

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