Critical Research on Gender and Information Systems

Critical Research on Gender and Information Systems

Eileen M. Trauth (The Pennsylvania State University, USA) and Debra Howcroft (University of Manchester, UK)
Copyright: © 2006 |Pages: 6
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-815-4.ch023
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Abstract

In 1991 Orlikowski and Baroudi published a seminal paper about the role of epistemological lenses in shaping information systems (IS) research. Citing Chua’s (1986) classification of research epistemologies they went on to describe the way in which each of three lenses—positivist, interpretive, and critical—influences the conduct of IS research. They concluded with the observation that whereas positivism dominated the IS research landscape, interpretive research was beginning to make an appearance. They also noted the dearth of critical IS research. Throughout the 1990s a few papers on critical research appeared. Myers’ (1997) paper on critical ethnography helped to bridge the understanding gap between interpretive and critical research. Ngwenyama and Lee (1997) used the critical lens to guide their approach to examining information richness theory. Doolin (1998) argued that a research approach based on critical theory is needed in order to view information technology within a broader context of social and political relations. However, in the 2000s there has been a significant increase in the focus on critical research, as evidenced in an increasing number of publications, conference streams, special issues, and academic electronic networks concerned with discussing critical IS1. It can be argued that the social nature of activities associated with the development, implementation, and use of IS and the management of people who carry out these activities leads naturally to considerations of social and political power. This consideration of power, in turn, encourages critical analysis. In the social sciences the term critical is used to describe a range of related approaches, including critical theory (Horkheimer, 1976), critical operational research (Mingers, 1992), critical ethnography (Forester, 1992), and critical management studies (Alvesson & Willmott, 1996). Despite some areas of commonality, critical researchers draw upon a broad range of social theories. These include, for example, the Frankfurt School of critical social theory (Horkheimer, 1976), actor-network theory (Latour, 1991), Marxism (Marx, 1974), feminist theory (Wajcman, 1991), and the work of Bordieu (1990), Dooyeweerd (1973), Foucault (1979), and Heidegger (1953).

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