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Editorial

The second issue of the Scandinavian Journal of information Systems in 2012 features two research articles and a debate section.

The first article, entitled “Inside a Digital Experiment – Co-producing Telecare Services for Older People” by Ian P. McLoughlin, Gregory Maniatopoulos, Rob Wilson, and Mike Martin presents the experience of a European level project that sought to engage users in the development of a telecare system for older people. The researchers worked to bring about user-centered design practices that went beyond design of devices and systems as such, distanced from a use context, and which aimed at creating a service environment that allowed for ongoing design-in-use and development of novel services. The design-in-use approach, labeled co-production, re-cast the issue of user involvement as a question of how infrastructures can be nurtured to support the co-production of service environments within which such systems and artifacts might be better appropriated by their users.

The editorial team would like to extend our thanks to Debra Howcroft, who together with Birgitta Bergvall-Kåreborn, Marita Holst, and Anna Ståhlbröst has conducted the editorial work on this article. They proposed a Special Issue on Living Labs, which was planned to be published in this issue, however, despite a decent number of submissions, only the current article made it through the review process.

The second article, “Benefits of Local Knowledge in Shaping Standards: A Case Study from Community Health Service and Information Systems in Ethiopia” is written by Zufan Abera Damtew and Margunn Aanestad. The study examines how local health workers contributed to shaping national, standard guidelines for service provision, information collection and reporting. When the guidelines were implemented in a specific context, the health workers sometimes devised alternative practices that constituted productive deviation from the standards. Engaging with the theoretical discussion on standardization and flexibility, the authors suggest differentiating between fixed and flexible elements of standards.

In the debate section, the theme is sociomateriality. While the sociomateriality approach currently enjoys popularity in several academic discourses, we here ask whether and how a sociomateriality lens may contribute to the design-oriented field of informatics. Tone Bratteteig and Guri Verne were invited to revise and submit their paper presented at the Scandinavian Conference on Information Systems in Uppsala in August 2012. A key message of their paper is that a design orientation requires that we go beyond describing entanglements or complexity as such. We also need concepts to describe the available room for action in order to identify that what can be ‘dis-entangled’ and then changed. In this discussion they mobilize the ‘imbrication’concept to denote those entanglements that are possible to dis-entangle and then change.

We received commentaries from other researchers with an interest in design and sociomateriality. Paul Leonardi and Carlos Rodriguqez-Lluesma examine the philosophical basis of the notions of entanglement and imbrication. They agree that the metaphor of imbrication provides more possibilities for design-oriented action than does a metaphor of entanglement, because it allows social and material agencies to retain their distinctive form despite the fact that they depend on one another. Their claim is that we can conceptualize such a separation between entities while still being consistent with a relational ontology, and they exemplify this through mobilizing the concept of “conversation”.

Karlheinz Kautz and Tina Blegind Jensen challenge the way Bratteteig and Verne understand the concepts of entanglement and imbrication as ontologically inconsistent. The two concepts belong to two different ontological schools, they argue, one based on a relational ontology and the other on a representational ontology, and the attempt to reconcile them ends up becoming “part of the problematic and obscure language of sociomateriality”. Rather, the authors advocate that a design-oriented approach to sociomateriality rather should be based on Karen Barad’s works, as it provides an relational holistic ontology (and vocabulary), which acknowledges relations and transcends representationalism, while still offering the required space for interventions.

Pernille Bjørn argues that the suggestion to make the distinction between entanglement and imbrication has embedded the dichotomy of the social and the technical, from which the authors do not escape in their analysis. Instead she suggests an alternative perspective on sociomateriality, called “bounding practices”, based on the premise that neither artifacts, nor people, are single entities with inherent properties, but instead people and artefacts become bounded in practice. ‘Becoming bounded’ has a double meaning: to bind together and to set the boundaries for what makes the entity. In their response article, Bratteteig and Verne relate to the commentaries and clarify their position, ending with a discussion on different degrees and levels of entanglements.

We hope you enjoy this issue and appreciate the contribution of the Scandinavian Journal of Information Systems to our community. We look forward to receiving your best papers with a view to publishing them in the SJIS. Upload you paper directly to our new publishing system, BEPress, which you can access through the SJIS website at http://aisel.aisnet.org/sjis/.

Articles

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Inside a Digital Experiment: Co-producing Telecare Services for Older People
Ian P. McLoughlin, Gregory Maniatopoulos, Rob Wilson, and Mike Martin

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Benefits of Local Knowledge in Shaping Standards
Zufan Abera Damtew and Margunn Aanestad