The Challenge of Transdisciplinarity in Information Systems Research: Towards an Integrative Platform

The Challenge of Transdisciplinarity in Information Systems Research: Towards an Integrative Platform

João Porto de Albuquerque (University of Sao Paulo, Brazil), Edouard J. Simon (University of Hamburg, Germany), Jan-Hendrik Wahoff (University of Hamburg, Germany) and Arno Rolf (University of Hamburg, Germany)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-040-0.ch005
OnDemand PDF Download:


Research in the Information Systems (IS) field has been characterised by the use of a variety of methods and theoretical underpinnings. This fact recently raised concerns about the rigour of scientific results of IS research and about the legitimacy of the IS academic field. On the other hand, a number of IS researchers have argued for a view that values diversity as a strength of the IS field. This chapter supports this viewpoint and analyzes the relation between IS research and concepts originating from theoretical debates around transdisciplinarity. We present results from a group of researchers of various disciplinary backgrounds towards an integrative platform for the orientation of transdisciplinary IS research. The Mikropolis platform provides researchers with a common language, allowing the integration of different perspectives through exchange of experiences and mutual understanding. We also discuss some practical issues that arise from the transdisciplinary cooperation in IS research.
Chapter Preview


Research on Information Systems (IS) is constantly faced with the challenge of addressing the complexity of sociotechnical systems. As a problem-oriented field of study, IS research is concerned with the interplay between information and communication technologies (ICTs) and the organisational and societal contexts in which technologies are used, generally under the assumption that the outcomes of technology use depend as much on characteristics of the technology as on organisational and social actions that shape them (Avgerou, 2000).

While this common epistemic interest demarcates and to some extent unifies the IS field, a great variety of research approaches and methods have been used in IS research. This theoretical and methodological diversity can be traced back to the manifold disciplinary origins of IS from computer science and applied social sciences like organisation studies, management science, and organisational psychology. Thus, in addition to the traditional theoretical paradigm of organisational rationalism originated from concepts of the management and organisational sciences (Avgerou, 2000), recent IS sociotechnical research also builds upon theories from social sciences such as structuration theory (Orlikowski, 2000), critical theory (Ngwenyama & Lee, 1997), and actor-network theory (Monteiro & Hanseth, 1996).1 Several corresponding research methods from the social sciences are used in IS research, both of quantitative (e.g., surveys) and qualitative nature (e.g., case study, ethnomethodology). Indeed, a recent survey (Glass, Ramesh, & Vessey, 2004) supports the picture of IS as an applied discipline that applies concepts of other disciplines.

The diversity of approaches and methods and the consequent lack of a unified theoretical core has generated concerns about the legitimacy of IS as an academic discipline (Benbasat & Zmud, 2003). Countering this viewpoint, a number of authors regard pluralism rather as necessary for the IS research to cope with the complex and multidimensional issues studied (Mingers, 2001). Following this line, Lyytinen and King (2004) propose the metaphor for the IS discipline as a “market of ideas in which scholars and practitioners exchange their views regarding the design and management of information and associated technologies in organized human enterprise”(p. 221). As such, the theoretical and methodological diversity of IS is seen as a valuable resource for the plasticity of the research in response to changes in ICT and organisation forms (Lyytinen & King, 2004).

Therefore, to fulfil its mission and address the complexity of IS and social practices, IS research should not harden and restrict itself to a theoretical “core” orthodoxy (Benbasat & Zmud, 2003), but rather dare the challenge of developing strategies for dealing with multiple research approaches, integrating different methods of inquiry, and articulating diverse theoretical backgrounds. Facing this challenge means replacing the hierarchical and homogeneous mode of scientific practice by a new form characterised by complexity, hybridity, nonlinearity, reflexivity, heterogeneity, and transdisciplinarity—the Mode 2 knowledge production described by Gibbons, Limoges, Nowotny, Schwartzman, Scott, and Trow (1994). Thus, a transdisciplinary approach to IS does not strive for a one-dimensional synthesis of the object IS around a unified theory at the centre, but assumes that the complex and intertwined relations between ICTs and human practices must be approached in multiple ways. Each of these perspectives sheds a different light to the understanding of the multidimensional object studied.

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book:
Table of Contents
Richard Baskerville
Aileen Cater-Steel, Latif Al-Hakim
Chapter 1
Panagiotis Kanellis, Thanos Papadopoulos
This chapter offers a journey through the spectrum of epistemological and ontological perspectives in IS (IS), offering the necessary background to... Sample PDF
Conducting Research in Information Systems: An Epistemological Journey
Chapter 2
Francis Chia Cua, Tony C. Garrett
This chapter introduces ontological and epistemological elements in information systems research. It argues that ontology, epistemology, and... Sample PDF
Understanding Ontology and Epistemology in Information Systems Research
Chapter 3
John Loonam, Joe McDonagh
Enterprise systems (ES) promise to integrate all information flowing across the organisation. They claim to lay redundant many of the integration... Sample PDF
A Grounded Theory Study of Enterprise Systems Implementation: Lessons Learned from the Irish Health Services
Chapter 4
Khalid Al-Mabrouk
This chapter reviews some of the existing Information Technology Transfer (ITT) literature and suggests that it has fallen victim to the well-known... Sample PDF
A Critical Theory Approach to Information Technology Transfer to the Developing World and a Critique of Maintained Assumptions in the Literature
Chapter 5
João Porto de Albuquerque, Edouard J. Simon, Jan-Hendrik Wahoff, Arno Rolf
Research in the Information Systems (IS) field has been characterised by the use of a variety of methods and theoretical underpinnings. This fact... Sample PDF
The Challenge of Transdisciplinarity in Information Systems Research: Towards an Integrative Platform
Chapter 6
Paul D. Witman
This chapter provides a set of guidelines to assist information systems researchers in creating, negotiating, and reviewing nondisclosure... Sample PDF
A Guide to Non-Disclosure Agreements for Researchers Using Public and Private Sector Sources
Chapter 7
Slinger Jansen
Even though information systems is a maturing research area, information systems case study reports generally lack extensive method descriptions... Sample PDF
Applied Multi-Case Research in a Mixed-Method Research Project: Customer Configuration Updating Improvement
Chapter 8
Erja Mustonen-Ollila, Jukka Heikkonen
This chapter gives important methodological, theoretical, and practical guidelines to the information system (IS) researchers to carry out a... Sample PDF
Historical Research in Information System Field: From Data Collection to Theory Creation
Chapter 9
Paivi Ovaska
Large-scale systems development is a complex activity involving number of dependencies that people working together face. Only a few studies... Sample PDF
A Multi-Methodological Approach to Study Systems Development in a Software Organization
Chapter 10
Judith Symonds
Usability Evaluation Methods (UEM) are plentiful in the literature. However, there appears to be a new interest in usability testing from the... Sample PDF
Usability Evaluation Meets Design: The Case of bisco Office™
Chapter 11
Ivan Ka-Wai Lai, Joseph M. Mula
Soft Systems Methodology (SSM) has been employed to increase the effectiveness of organizational requirement analysis in Information Systems (IS)... Sample PDF
An Analysis-Form of Soft Systems Methodology for Information Systems Maintenance
Chapter 12
Raul Valverde, Mark Toleman, Aileen Cater-Steel
Recently, many organisations have become aware of the limitations of their legacy systems to adapt to new technical requirements. Trends towards... Sample PDF
Design Science: A Case Study in Information Systems Re-Engineering
Chapter 13
Shaligram Pokharel
Information and communication technology (ICT) refer to a family of technologies that facilitate information capturing, storing, processing... Sample PDF
Analyzing the Use of Information Systems in Logistics Industry
Chapter 14
William Yeoh
Engineering asset management organisations (EAMOs) are increasingly motivated to implement business intelligence (BI) systems in response to... Sample PDF
Empirical Investigation of Critical Success Factors for Implementing Business Intelligence Systems in Multiple Engineering Asset Management Organisations
Chapter 15
Ping Li, Joseph M. Mula
A review of the literature showed that there appears to be very little research undertaken on Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) adoption by small to... Sample PDF
Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) Adoption: A Study of SMEs in Singapore
Chapter 16
Hatem F. Halaoui
Using geographical information systems (GIS) has been of great interest lately. A lot of GIS applications are being introduced to regular and... Sample PDF
Towards Google Earth: A History of Earth Geography
Chapter 17
Sergio Di Martino, Filomena Ferrucci, Carmine Gravino
Web technologies are being even more adopted for the development of public and private applications, due to the many intrinsic advantages. Due to... Sample PDF
Empirical Studies for Web Effort Estimation
Chapter 18
Mobile Marketing  (pages 328-341)
Kazuhiro Takeyasu
Recently, cellular phones capable of accessing the Internet are prevailing rapidly in Japan. First, their functions and features are examined... Sample PDF
Mobile Marketing
Chapter 19
Ross A. Malaga
Online auctions are an increasingly popular avenue for completing electronic transactions. Many online auction sites use some type of reputation... Sample PDF
The Retaliatory Feedback Problem: Evidence from eBay and a Proposed Solution
About the Contributors