Theory and Application
Edited by Debra Howcroft and Eileen M. Trauth
Chapter 2: Basic Assumptions of the Critical Research Perspectives in Information Systems
Dubravka Cecez-Kecmanovic Introduction Critical information systems (IS) research encompasses a wide range of diverse research endeavours with a single, yet essential identiﬁable thread – a critical theoretic orientation. Critical theoretic orientation, generally, means framing the purpose of research in the context of critical theoretic concerns, such as domination, power and control on the one hand, and liberation, empowerment and emancipation, on the other. Critical social research has eminently practical and essentially democratic purposes. It seeks to achieve emancipatory social change by explaining ‘a social order in such a way that it becomes itself the catalyst which leads to the transformation of this social order’ (Fay 1987, p. 27). Critical IS research speciﬁcally opposes technological determinism and instrumental rationality underlying IS development and seeks emancipation from unrecognized forms of domination and control enabled or supported by information systems. By framing their purpose in the context of critical theoretic concerns, critical IS researchers challenge the established regimes of truth and norms of knowledge production in both the discipline and practice of information systems. Critical IS researchers produce knowledge with the aim of revealing and explaining how information systems are (mis)used to enhance control, domination and oppression, and thereby to inform and inspire transformative social practices that realize the liberating and emancipatory potential of information systems. IS research with such a critical social orientation has emerged as the so-called ‘third path’ in IS research,1 which follows the critical tradition nurtured in philosophy, sociology, education, management, anthropology, history and so on...
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