Research Papers

Abstract

Participation is critical in information systems development (ISD) for promoting effective knowledge sharing among diverse stakeholder groups. However, the emergence of new, challenging project contexts has led to calls for the ‘old, tired’ concept of participation to be revisited. In particular, our understanding of intergroup participation within the context of distributed teamwork remains under theorised. Distributed ISD projects require participation among both IT specialists and domain experts or users, who more often than not come from diverse geographical, organisational, and disciplinary backgrounds. In addition to geographical and temporal distances, socio-political differences between stakeholders in distributed ISD projects raise questions around the nature of participation. In this paper, we investigate how participation emerges in distributed ISD projects and the factors which support or impede its emergence, using the ‘Theory of Practice’ and ‘Collective Reflection-in-Action’ frameworks a theoretical lens. We draw on empirical findings from an in-depth case study of a 6-month distributed project called ‘Health ISD’, which involved a distributed team of IT specialists and clinicians. Our findings point to five socio-political factors which support or impede participation: rules, resources, interests, values, and goals. These factors act as instruments of both coordination and conflict across both face-to-face and online communications. We also identify five modes through which participation emerges: adding, challenging, ignoring, defining, and finalising.

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