Exploring "Events" as an Information Systems Research Methodology

Exploring "Events" as an Information Systems Research Methodology

Anita Greenhill (The University of Manchester, UK) and Gordon Fletcher (University of Salford, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-142-1.ch007
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In this article we build upon existing research and commentary from a variety of disciplinary sources, including information systems, organisational and management studies, and the social sciences that focus upon the meaning, significance and impact of “events” in the information technology, organisational and social context. Our aim is to define how the examination of the event is an appropriate, viable and useful information systems methodology. The line of argument we pursue is that by focusing on the “event” the researcher is able to more clearly observe and capture the complexity, multiplicity and mundaneity of everyday lived experience. An inherent danger of existing traditional “event” focused studies and “virtual” ethnographic approaches is the micromanagement of the research process. Using the notion of “event” has the potential to reduce methodological dilemmas such as this without effacing context (Peterson, 1998, p. 19). Similarly, in this chapter we address the overemphasis upon managerialist, structured and time-fixated praxis that is currently symptomatic of information systems research. All of these concerns are pivotal points of critique found within event-oriented literature regarding organisations (Gergen & Thatchenkery, 2004; Peterson, 1998).
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What Are Events And Event Scenes?

The whole life of those societies in which modern conditions of production prevail presents itself as an immense accumulation of spectacles. All that once was directly lived has become mere representation. (Debord, 1994, Thesis 1)

In this paper we present a sample of literature concerning event-oriented approaches, especially those inspired by the situationists, in order to consider the more specific representational issues found in the specific praxis of the “event scene.” We build upon Peterson’s (1998) literature review that offers a taxonomy of organisational events to develop a critical debate regarding the relationships of events to organisations. The event scene is the direct descendant to the situationism’s act of détournement, in which significant and insignificant elements of observations are isolated and inserted into new and unexpected contexts. Détournement is most readily explained with examples such as found art and the work of artists such as Tracey Emin that includes her Curriculum Vita (CV) presented as a framed piece and more recently an abusive text message sent to a fan. A majority of Emin’s work places the mundane in a formal environment in unexpected ways, forcing the viewer to (hopefully) reconsider their position and view the subject of the works in new ways. As a necessarily obtuse explanation of this tactic, Debord and Wolman (1956) describe détournement as being “less effective the more it approaches a rational reply” to the cultural situation it critiques. The situationist’s invocation for obscurity is a political resistance to the likelihood of mainstream recuperation — of being made irrelevant by becoming commodified. Event scenes are a mechanism utilised by contemporary critical theory in order to loosen the restrictions of historical and temporally bound analysis that are a consequence of most interpretive methods.

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