Microemancipatory practicies in information system development
The paper revisits the notion of emancipation in Information System Development (ISD) that seems to
have lost a battle against functionalist and managerialist approaches dominant in information system
(IS) research and practice. Unlike functionalist and managerialist views, the emancipatory view of
ISD, informed by Critical Theory, considers ISD as a site of organizational innovation, self-reflection
and a struggle for humanization of work and liberation from different forms of domination. Critics of
emancipatory project in IS and management literature question the very possibility of the
emancipation and deplore its intellectualism, naivety and negativism. The purpose of this paper is to
re-consider the notion of emancipatory ISD in the face of these criticisms and develop a more refined
and nuanced view of micro-emancipation in ISD that is meaningful in practice. Informed by Alvesson
and Willmott (1992, 1996) we explore, question, redefine and ground the micro-emancipatory ISD
processes based on a longitudinal (15 year) study of a retail company. Our analysis and critical
reflection demonstrate that micro-emancipatory ISD processes have real substance for the people
involved, and that their meanings are neither fixed nor universal, but rather local, emergent,
uncertain, and sometimes contradictory. This paper contributes an empirically grounded and
practically relevant reconceptualization of micro-emancipatory ISD projects which reveals both its
benefits and risks for all involved.
Cecez-Kecmanovic, Dubravka and Janson, Marius, "Microemancipatory practicies in information system development" (2009). ECIS 2009 Proceedings. 346.
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