Dealing with Critical IS Research: Artifacts, Drifts, Electronic Panopticon and Illusions of Empowerment

  • Marcello Martinez
  • Mario Pezzillo Iacono
Part of the Lecture Notes in Information Systems and Organisation book series (LNISO, volume 1)


The chapter explores the diversity of topics, views and perspectives focused on the relationship between information systems (IS) and control, from a critical perspective. The work reflects upon the framework of Critical IS Research and its relation to Foucaultian approach and IS practice, informing the discussion on the ways IS and managerial Discourses framing the organizational reality. For this purpose, a case study of call centre outsourced industry is presented. We have explained how the overlapping between “electronic panopticon” and “commitment practices” used by management becomes a powerful tool for exerting influence and control in the sense of self-discipline and self-regulation. From this point of view, these tools are merely illusions of empowerment, representing only an apparent departure from traditional form of control, reiterating the idea of technological Discourse as a means of manipulation.


Artifacts Drifts Control Electronic panopticon Critical Call centre 


  1. 1.
    Ezzamel, M., Willmott, H., & Worthington, F. (2001). Power, control and resistance in the factory that time forgot. Journal of Management Studies, 38(8), 1053–1080.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Contu, A. (2007). Groups and teams at work. In: H. Willmott, D. Knights (Eds.), Introducing organizational behaviour and management. London: Thomson Learning.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Willmott, H. (2005). Theorizing contemporary control: Some postructuralist responses to some critical realist questions. Organization, 12(5), 747–780.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Doolin, B., & McLeod, L. (2005). Towards critical interpretivism in IS research. In: D. Howcroft, E. M. Trauth (Eds.), Handbook of critical information systems research: Theory and application (pp. 244–271). Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Cecez-Kecmanovic, D., Klein, H. K., & Brooke, C. (2008). Exploring the critical research agenda in information systems research. Information Systems Journal, 18(2), 123–135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Adler, P. S., Forbes, L. C., & Willmott, H. (2007). Critical management studies. Academy of Management Annals, 1, 119–179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Avgerou, C., Mansell, R., Quah, D., & Silverstone, R. (2007). The Oxford handbook of information and communication technologies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Braverman, H. (1974). Labour and monopoly capital. New York: Monthly Review Press.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Alvesson, M., & Deetz, S. (2000). Doing critical management research. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Ashcraft, K. L. (2009). Gender and diversity: Other ways to make a difference. In M. Alvesson, T. Bridgman, & H. Willmott (Eds.), Oxford handbook of critical management studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Spicer, A., Alvesson, M., & Kärreman, D. (2009). Critical performativity: The unfinished business of critical management studies. Human Relations, 62(4), 537–560.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Alvesson, M., & Willmott, H. (1992). Critical management studies. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Pezzillo Iacono, M., Toraldo, M. L. (2011). Handbook dei critical management studies review: Prospettive critiche agli studi manageriali. Performance & Management, 2, 49–54.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Alvesson, M., Bridgman, T., & Willmott, H. (Eds.). (2009). Oxford handbook of critical management studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Pezzillo Iacono, M., Esposito, V., Mercurio, R. (2012) Controllo manageriale e regolazione dell’identità organizzativa: la prospettiva dei Critical Management Studies. Management Control, 1, 7–26.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Howcroft, D. (2009). Information System. In M. Alvesson, T. Bridgman, & H. Willmott (Eds.), Oxford handbook of critical management studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Doolin, B. (2002). Enterprise discourse, professional identity and the organizational control of hospital clinicians. Organization Studies, 23(3), 369–390.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    McLoughlin, I., & Harris, M. (1997). Innovation, organizational change and technology. London: International Thompson Business Paper.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Orlikowski, W. J., & Baroudi, J. J. (1991). Studying information technology in organizations: research approaches and assumptions. Information Systems Research, 2(1), 1–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Cecez-Kecmanovic, D. (2005). Basic assumptions of the critical research perspectives in information systems. In D. Howcroft & E. Trauth (Eds.), Handbook of critical information systems research: Theory and application (pp. 19–46). UK, Edward Elgar: Aldershot.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Brocklesby, J., & Cummings, S. (1996). Foucault plays Habermas: An alternative philosophical underpinning for critical systems thinking. Journal of the Operational Research Society, 47(6), 741–754.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Myers, M. D., & Klein, H. (2011). A set of principles for conducting critical research in information systems. MIS Quarterly, 35(1), 17–36.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Brooke, C. (2002). Critical research in information systems. Journal of Information Technology, 17(2), 45–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Jones, G. (2009). Poststructuralism. In M. Alvesson, T. Bridgman, & H. Willmott (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of critical management studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Fournier, V., & Grey, C. (2000). At the critical moment: Conditions and prospects for critical management studies. Human Relations, 53(1), 7–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Sveningsson, S., & Alvesson, M. (2003). Managing managerial identities: Organizational fragmentation, discourse and Identity Struggle. Human Relations, 56(10), 1141–1193.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Alvesson, M., & Willmott, H. (2002). Identity regulation as organizational control: Producing the appropriate individual. Journal of Management Studies, 39, 619–644.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Alvesson, M., & Willmott, H. (1992). On the idea of emancipation in management and organization studies. Academy of Management Review, 17(3), 432–464.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Consiglio, S., Moschera, L., Berni, A., Cicellin, M. (2010) Institutional logics and the rise of a new organisational field, 6th New Institutionalism Workshop, Lyon.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Alvesson, M., & Karreman, D. (2000). Varieties of discourse: On the study of organizations through discourse analysis. Human Relations, 53(9), 1125–1149.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Foucault, M. (1977). Discipline and punish. New York: Vintage.Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    du Gay, P., & Salaman, G. (1992). The cult[ure] of the consumer. Journal of Management Studies, 29, 615–633.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Barker, R. J. (1993). Tightening the iron cage: Concertive control in self-managing teams. Administrative Science Quarterly, 38, 408–437.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Foucault, M. (1980). Power/knowledge. New York: Pantheon.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Franco, M., & Mariano, S. (2007). Information technology repositories and knowledge management processes: A qualitative analysis. Vine, 37(4), 440–451.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Doolin, B. (2009). Information systems and power: A Foucauldian perspective. In C. Brooke (Ed.), Critical management perspectives on information systems (pp. 211–230). Oxford: Butterworth Heinemann.Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    Bauman, Z. (2001). Community: Seeking safety in an insecure world. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Bauman, Z. (2002). Society under siege. Cambridge : Polity Press.Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Bauman, Z. (1998). Globalization. The human consequences. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    Zuboff, S. (1988). In the age of the smart machine: The future of work and power. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    Cooper, R. (1991). Formal organization as representation: Remote control, displacement, abbreviation. In M. Reed & M. Hughes (Eds.), Rethinking organization. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    Alvesson, M. (2010). Self-doubters, strugglers, storytellers, surfers and others: Images of self-identities in organization studies. Human Relations, 63(2), 193–217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. 43.
    Sewell, G., & Wilkinson, B. (1992). “Someone to watch over me”: Surveillance, discipline and the just-in-time labour process. Sociology, 26(2), 271–289.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. 44.
    Ciborra, C. U. (2000). A critical review of the literature on the management of corporate information infrastructure. In C. U. Ciborra (Ed.), From control to drift: The dynamics of corporate information infrastructures (pp. 15–40). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  45. 45.
    Klecun, E. (2011) Information and communication technologies as control mechanisms. Proceeding VII CMS International Conference, Naples.Google Scholar
  46. 46.
    Ciborra, C. U. (2002). The labyrinths of information: Challenging the wisdom of systems. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  47. 47.
    Rajao, R., & Hayes, N. (2009). Conceptions of control and IT artefacts: An institutional account of the Amazon rainforest monitoring system. Journal of Information Technology, 24(4), 320–331.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. 48.
    Fligstein, N. (1990). The transformation of corporate control. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  49. 49.
    Martinez, M. (2011). ICT, productivity and organizational complementarity. In: C. Rossignoli, A. Carugati (Eds.), Emerging themes in information systems and organization studies (pp. 271–281). Heidelberg: Physica-Verlag.Google Scholar
  50. 50.
    Orlikowski, W. J. (2000). Using technology and constituting structures: a practice lens for studying technology in organizations. Organization Science, 11(4), 404–428.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. 51.
    Bloomfield, B., & Coombs, R. (1992). Information technology, control And power: The centralization and decentralization debate revisited. Journal of Management Studies, 29(4), 459–470.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. 52.
    Weick, K. E., Sutcliffe, K. M., & Obstfeld, D. (2005). Organizing and the process of sensemaking. Organizations Science, 16(4), 409–421.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. 53.
    Orlikowski, W. J. (2002). Knowing in practices: Enacting a collective capability in distributed organizing. Organization Science, 13(3), 249–273.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. 54.
    Knights, D., & Murrey, F. (1994). Managers divided: Organizational politics and IT management. London: Wiley.Google Scholar
  55. 55.
    Introna, L. D. (1997). Management, information and power. London: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  56. 56.
    Bloomfield, B., & Danieli, A. (1995). The role of management consultants in the devleopment of information technology: The indissoluble nature of socio-political and technical skills. Journal of Management Studies, 33(1), 27–46.Google Scholar
  57. 57.
    Brooke, C. (2009). Critical perspective on information systems. Oxford: Elsevier.Google Scholar
  58. 58.
    Mulholland, K. (2002). Gender, emotional labour and team working in a call centre. Team Working in a Call Centre, Personnel Review, 31(3), 283–303.Google Scholar
  59. 59.
    Berni, A. Pezzillo Iacono, M., Martinez, M. (2012) Organizational change and dynamics of control: An analysis of Italian Call Center Workplace. Chinese Business Review, 11(4), 402–410.Google Scholar
  60. 60.
    Callaghan, G., & Thompson, P. (2002). (2002), “We recruit attitude”: The selection and shaping of routine call centre labour. Journal of Management Studies, 39(2), 233–254.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. 61.
    Fernie, S., & Metcalf, D. (1998). (Not) hanging on the telephone: Payment systems in the new sweatshops. CEP Discussion paper, 390, 1–41.Google Scholar
  62. 62.
    Yin, R. K. (2003). Case study research: Design and methods (3rd ed.). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  63. 63.
    Jabar, M. A., Sidi, F., Selamat, M. H., Ghani, A. A. A., & Ibrahim, H. (2009). An Investigation into methods and concepts of qualitative research in information system research. Computer and information Science, 2(4), 47–54.Google Scholar
  64. 64.
    Orlikowski, W. J. (1993). CASE tools as organizational change: Investigating incremental and radical changes in systems development. MIS Quarterly, 17(3), 309–340.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. 65.
    Macdonald, C. L., Sirianni C. (Eds.) (1996) Working in the service society. Temple University Press. Philadelphia.Google Scholar
  66. 66.
    Bain, P., Taylor, P. (2000) Entrapped by the “electronic panopticon” Worker.resistance in the call centre, New Technology. Work and Employment, 15(1), 2–18.Google Scholar
  67. 67.
    Canonico, P., De Nito, E., Mangia, G., Mercurio, R., & Esposito, V. (2009). Interpreting projects: Bureaucratical mechanisms to enforce control or lever for change. Organizacja I Zarzadanie, 3(7), 5–16.Google Scholar
  68. 68.
    Kunda, G. (1992). Engineering culture: Control and commitment in a high-tech corporation. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.Google Scholar
  69. 69.
    Bauman, Z. (2000). Liquid modernity. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  70. 70.
    Knight, D., Willmott, H. (2011) Organizational analysis. Essential readings, Cengage learning EMEA.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsSecond University of NaplesCapuaItaly

Personalised recommendations