Power, Rationality, and the Art of Living Through Socio-Technical Change

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Abstract

Most information systems research takes for granted the assumption that IS practice and associated organizational change can be effectively understood as a process of technical reasoning and acting governed by a mix of concerns about software construction, administrative control, and economic gain. Its mission has been to empower managers, IS engineers, and information and communication technology users with knowledge and techniques for effective decision making. However, empirical research frequently encounters human activity that is at odds with the assumed pattern of rational behavior. Recent work tries to explain behavior in IS and organizational change in terms of social processes rather than as a consideration of rational techniques of professional practice. In this paper we address this ambivalence of the IS field with regard to technical/rational knowledge and practice. We draw from the theoretical work of Michel Foucault on power/knowledge and the aesthetics of existence to argue that the rational techniques of IS practice and the power dynamics of an organization and its social context are closely intertwined, requiring each other to be sustained. Furthermore, we develop a context-specific notion of rationality in IS innovation, through which interested parties judge the value of an innovation for their lives and consequently support or subvert its course. We demonstrate these ideas with a case study of a social security organization in Greece.

Additional Details

Author Chrisanthi Avgerou and Kathy McGrath
Year 2007
Volume 31
Issue 2
Keywords Rationality, IS innovation, power/knowledge, regime of truth, aesthetics of existence, techniques of the self
Page Numbers 295-315