Participatory--also called emancipatory--information systems development (ISD) approaches claim systematic and meaningful user involvement, workplace democratization, and reduced worker alienation. Grounded in a humanist view of information systems (IS) as social systems, participatory ISD advocates open and non-distorted communication, reasoned argumentation, cooperation and mutual understanding between IS users and developers. However, the critical theoretical foundation of participatory ISD was contested and its practical value called into question (Wilson, 1997). Moreover, participatory ISD was criticized as serving the interests of capital by co-opting workers and thereby weakening their resistance (Asaro, 2000). Given the controversy surrounding participatory ISD, its objectives, theoretical foundation, and application in practice, further studies are warranted. Drawing on a longitudinal field study, this paper provides insight into a company that successfully implemented participatory practices in organizational decision-making including ISD. By exploring ISD in a broader organizational context, this paper re-examines conditions for participatory ISD and sheds light on the subtle difference between ISD practices that liberate and empower, and those that colonize and disempower.
Janson, Marius and Cecez-Kecmanovic, Dubravka, "Information Systems Development and the Participatory Ethos" (2003). ECIS 2003 Proceedings. 59.