While materiality is an important concept in IS research, there is little consensus as to how "materiality" ought to be understood. We find that the term is typically used, often implicitly, to mean "physicality" or the corporeal existence of objects. Grounded in a widely held "folk ontology" characteristic of modern Western thinking this view makes intuitive sense to us. It breaks down however when we consider typical entities of concern to IS researcher, such as software or information, or emerging phenomena in the network society, such as online social networks or virtual work. In response to unhelpful distinctions emerging from this view, such as between the “virtual” and “real” world, we put forward a relational view grounded in the emerging sociomateriality research orientation. This alternative position sees materiality not as a pre-given quality of entities but rather as an ongoing achievement of “mattering” situated in practice. We demonstrate with examples how this view enables IS researchers to grasp in more productive ways how materiality is achieved in an increasingly networked society.
Hafermalz, Ella and Riemer, Kai, "The Question of Materiality: Mattering in the Network Society" (2015). ECIS 2015 Completed Research Papers. Paper 66.