A data modeler, when faced with different interpretations of a given reality within an organization, may opt to create a standard model for the whole company (the Newspeak solution). On the other hand, allowing multiple, and sometimes incompatible, models to coexist may lead to what some researchers call the Tower of Babel problem. The clash between these two possibilities creates a fundamental design problem for IS. We argue that the concept of play in Gadamer can be seen as the “place” where differences and similarities among various perspectives are expressed and discussed. Based on Gadamer’s Truth and Method (1960) and on Heidegger’s Being and Time (1962), we review the concepts of horizon, fusion of horizons, play, application, and the hermeneutic circle, and show some applications to information systems. Following Hirschheim et al. (1995), who consider that “the role of a data models should be seen in a similar light as the role of a theory for a scientific community,” we turn to the debate between objectivism and relativism in philosophy of science in order to discover a way of negotiating the clash between the Newspeak and Tower of Babel possibilities in Information Systems. We introduce an historical example of hermeneutical play—the Popper/Kuhn debate in the philosophy of science—which directly addresses the problems and possibilities associated with communication among people holding incommensurable perspectives. We show how this situation informed their hermeneutic play in the philosophy of science. Finally, we argue that a similar play, in conjunction with the dimension of application, is the way beyond the either/or of the Tower of Babel versus Newspeak dilemma.
Fonseca, Frederico and Martin, James, "Play as the Way Out of the Newspeak-Tower of Babel Dilemma in Data Modeling" (2005). ICIS 2005 Proceedings. 26.