Inquiry into Definitions of Culture in IT Studies
Mark Srite (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, USA), Detmar Straub (Georgia State University, USA), Karen Loch (Georgia State University, USA), Roberto Evaristo (University of Illinois-Chicago, USA) and Elena Karahanna (University of Georgia, USA)
Copyright: © 2003
In reviewing the history of the conceptualization and measurement of “culture,” one quickly realizes that there is wide-ranging and contradictory scholarly opinion about which values, norms, and beliefs should be measured to represent the concept of “culture.” We explore an alternate theory-based view of culture via social identity theory (SIT), which suggests that each individual is influenced by a plethora of cultures and sub-cultures – some ethnic, some national, and some organizational. In information system (IS) research, the culture of subjects and respondents is problematic because it is typically an overly simplistic categorization. IS research nearly always assumes that an individual living in a particular place and time belongs to a single “culture,” e.g., someone living in Egypt is automatically classified as being a member of the Egyptian culture, or, more broadly, the Arab culture. This dearth of clear concepts and measures for “culture” may explain why cross-cultural research has been so exceedingly difficult to conduct. It may also explain why it has been hard to develop and refine theories. Moreover, it may give insight into why reasonable, explained variance in predictive models has not been higher. Finally, it is very possible that much cross-cultural business research could be rightly accused of advancing an “ecological fallacy” by not recognizing the individual makeup of persons with respect to culture.Using SIT (or other theory bases) as grounding for cultural research programs implies the use of certain methodological approaches. Each study would have to establish the salient “cultures” in each individual’s background and include these different “cultures” as independent variables in positivist research. In qualitative research, there would need to be an equally rigorous assessment of the cultural identifiers of each individual.