Philosophy and Epistemology of IS Research

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Track Chair: Emmanuel Monod, Paris Dauphine University, CREPA and University of Nantes

Is there a European philosophy in IS research? Are socio-technical approaches only Scandinavian and British, or are they the seeds of a European identity? Or could we consider that European philosophy has already had an influence on worldwide IS research through Habermas, Heidegger, Ricoeur, and Gadamer?

Beside philosophy, a European uniqueness could also be found in epistemology. American philosophy is called "analytical philosophy", while European philosophy is classically called "hermeneutic philosophy", or, more precisely, European continental philosophy, because British philosophy is often considered analytical as well. But is this analytical philosophy only logical empiricism (positivism) or is it also pragmatism? How about the influence of William James, Charles Sander Pierce, or John Dewey? And is Europe ready to claim that we are the land of interpretation? Of hermeutics? Is European IS research more interpretive than the American? Or more qualitative?

Of course, there are more concrete questions with which epistemology in IS must deal: Is there a technological determinism? Are we searching for laws of organisational functioning? Of IS impact? Or are we simply describing unique contexts? Situated learning? Is IS research nomothetical or ideographical?

But epistemology is also a comparison with other sciences. For instance, is European epistemology more open to sociology, psychology, linguistic, or history? More "social"? In front of Talcott Parson’s Functionalism, Giddens’ Structuration Theory, or the Latour’s Actor-Network Theory shows that alternative ways exist in sociology applied to IS. The same is true for the tremendous influence of Piaget’s constructivism in psychology applied to IS. If Mason, McKenney, and Copeland (1987) pioneered the historical methods in IS, Dick Mason claimed the influence of Hegel in his work. As a consequence, is Europe, compared to the U.S., performing more longitudinal studies? More ethnography? More "design research"? More methodological individualism than holism? How about system thinking?

Coming back to philosophy, how about ethics in IS? Are codes of conduct part of IS research? Is Critical Social Theory still in the realm of research or is it purely ethics? How about advocating for the employees? For the customers in IS projects? Or for action research? Are Multiview, SSM, ETHICS, or MARS descriptive or normative development methods?

Finally, if European philosophy is often known in IS through Churchman’s Inquiring Systems, could Europe claim a more accurate reading of Kant or Hegel by reading their original work rather than their American interpretation by Churchman? On the same level, why does American epistemology leave Garfinkel’s ethnomethodology known only through the interpretation of Giddens? Beyond these questions, is there a way to reconcile American analytical approaches with “European” approaches through, for instance, Karl Otto Apel’s Transcendental Pragmatism or through Kant? And is Europe closer to the philosopher’s texts?

Suggested topics:
 -  A European philosophical or epistemological identity in IS research
 -  The status of socio-technical approaches: epistemology, research methods, or simply IS development methods? Are they really an alternative to positivism?
 -  Did we make progress on the questions of technological determinism? Of the functioning of organisations?
 -  Is ethics a full trend of research in IS? How about the positioning of Critical Social
 -  Theory towards ethics? What are the consequences in IS development?
 -  Is European research more “sociological” than American research? Qualitative? Interpretive? Longitudinal? Ideographic?
 -  Is European research more influenced by Critical Social Theory? Methodological Individualism? Constructivism?
 -  Is European research more pluralist than American research in IS?

Although authors are welcome to rely on the above distinctions, they are also encouraged to challenge these distinctions. Papers or panels allowing comparative points of view about IS research or with other sciences will be welcome, especially if they allow us to make progress in the quest for an epistemological pluralism or for a European research identity.