Information Systems and Actor-Network Theory Analysis

Information Systems and Actor-Network Theory Analysis

Tiko Iyamu (Department of Business Computing, Polytechnic of Namibia, Windhoek, Namibia) and Tefo Sekgweleo (Department of Informatics, Tshwane University of Technology, Pretoria, South Africa)
DOI: 10.4018/jantti.2013070101


Evidently, based on studies which have been conducted over the years, there exist lots more complexity than technical in the development and implementation of information systems in organisations. The complex issues are socio-technical in nature, which require a refresh examination, from social context, if different results are to be achieved. Some of the complexities which are encountered include operational issues, environmental trends, processes flow, communicative scheme, and actors’ relationship. The unpredictable nature of business and rapidly changing user requirements makes it even more difficult to develop and implement systems within budget and timeframe. Other challenges are within the social context, such as politics and culture affiliations. Through the lens of Actor-Network Theory (ANT) understanding of the social context of how information systems are developed and implemented is gained. Although ANT has been employed in many studies, it is of significant important to establishes and clarifies the factors, from the social perspective, which influences the development and implementation of information systems in organisations.
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Information systems are considered vital, and some organisations wholly rely on it. Organisations make use of information systems to support their operations, administrations, processes and competitive advantage. The development and implementation of information systems is not as easy as we are meant to belief. Also, even though it is intended to address challenges, it could be by itself challenging to employ. Many studies including Siau and Tan (2005); Sircar et al (2001); and Tan and Tan (2010) have argued that the development and implementation of information systems is a challenging task to accomplish, in a various ways.

Technology by itself does not make up an information system. There are many networks, which include human interactions. The interplay by humans is critically important in the deployment of information systems. For example, Business Analysts (BA) is responsible for gathering business requirements and compiling the functional design specification (Avison & Fitzgerald, 2006). The same focused responsibility focused applies other role-players such as System Analysts, who are expected to design technical specifications (Satzinger et al., 2004). The Developers make use of technical design specification to develop information systems requested by organisations (Beynon-Davies et al., 2004); and Testers are responsible for conducting various types of testing including functional testing, end to end testing and black box testing.

Both human and non-human actors work together as a collective to deliver information system as requested by the organisation. Chen et al. (2010) argued that IS consists of technical components, human activities, and describe processes which are used to manage the organisation’s activities. Hence it is most appropriate to gain a good understanding of the processes and activities which are involved in the development and implementation of information systems in organisation. This is the ultimate contribution of the lens of Actor-Network Theory (ANT), a theory which focuses on human and non-human factors.

ANT is a theory that integrates both human and non-human actors to form or create a network Macome (2008). Wernick et al. (2008) stated that irrespective of whether the actor is human or non-human they are both weighed equally as they offer the same contribution to the formed network. The teams, which constitute a network, have different roles, responsibilities, understanding, and interpretation of the same system. ANT describes a heterogeneous network of technical and non-technical as equal interrelated actors that can form a network of actors (Wernick et al., 2008).

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