Communications of the Association for Information Systems


This article proposes the development of an "interpretary," a compendium of interpretations of IS concepts and methods from different theoretical perspectives. Such an interpretary would recognize the importance of different theoretical perspectives while also moving toward an organized body of knowledge for the IS discipline. An idealized interpretary can be viewed as a two-dimensional concept interpretation matrix whose cells contain interpretations of specific concepts from specific theoretical perspectives. The first column is a list of important IS concepts. The other columns represent specific theoretical perspectives. Each cell contains an interpretation of a particular concept from a particular perspective Thus, the row for “user” would contain interpretations of that term from different perspectives. After explaining the idea of an interpretary, this article presents an illustrative example that compares interpretations of seventy-five selected IS concepts from two theoretical perspectives: (1) systems are technical artifacts that are used by users and (2) systems are IT-reliant work systems whose components include human participants. The first perspective is consistent with most systems analysis and design textbooks. The second is based on work system theory, the basis of the work system method. A more complete interpretary would include many other perspectives. The conclusion summarizes some of the challenges related to creating a more complete interpretary for the IS discipline.