Theory and Application
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Edited by Debra Howcroft and Eileen M. Trauth
Chapter 3: Theoretical Approaches for Researching Power and Information Systems: The Benefit of a Machiavellian View
Leiser O. Silva Introduction The relationship among power, politics, information systems and organizations has been the centre of several studies in the information systems (IS) ﬁeld. These studies have concentrated on different power issues such as the interaction between users and designers (Kling 1991; Alvarez 2002; Davidson 2002), the possible conﬂict between managers and workers (Keen 1981; Markus 1983; Markus and Bjorn-Andersen 1987; Robey and Smith 1993; Newman and Sabherwal 1996), and the use of information systems as instruments of domination (Bloomﬁeld and Coombs 1992; Hirschheim and Klein 1994; Sillince and Mouakket 1997; Grifﬁth et al. 1998; Saravanamuthu 2002; Howcroft and Wilson 2003). Moreover, in a recent paper Jasperson et al. (2002) analysed the different theoretical approaches to studying power and its relation to information systems, by examining 82 papers. In their large sample, they found that only 13 papers took a multidimensional view of power; that is, considering information technology (IT) not only as an instrument for introducing change but also as a source of political actions. This is interesting given the beneﬁt that integrated views would bring about for understanding a complex phenomenon such as power. In this sense, I shall argue that adopting a strategic view of power will bring into being both the instrumental and political nature of IT. Thus, in this chapter I shall discuss distinctive theoretical approaches for studying power and IS and argue in favour of a Machiavellian stance. To develop the discussion, I shall ﬁrst concentrate on the...
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