On the Relevance of Habermas‘ Theory of Communicative Action for CSCW


We examine the argument put forward by Ojelanki Nygwenyama andKalle Lyytinen that Juergen Habermas's theory of communicativeaction is relevant for the analysis and design of groupwaresystems. We suggest that CSCW champions of Habermas oftenoverlook the fact that his theory can be criticised in itsown right, and go on to outline its contestable character inan appraisal of his understanding of the ‘ideal speech situation’.We then move to Nygwenyama and Lyytinen's implementation ofHabermas's schema and argue that their categories of analysisare both arbitrarily constructed and applied. In conclusion,we question the extent to which grand, holistic, synthesisingsociological theories offer a way forward for designers andpoint to the difficulties of practically applying Nygwenyamaand Lyytinen's categories of analysis.

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Sharrock, W., Button, G. On the Relevance of Habermas‘ Theory of Communicative Action for CSCW. Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) 6, 369–389 (1997). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1008644224566

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  • Habermas
  • Groupware
  • Social action
  • Communicative action