Reinterpreting the Kuhnian Paradigm in Information Systems
The goal of this paper is to raise the level of discourse surrounding paradigms by drawing out a number of observations on how paradigms are interpreted in the IS field, and to reclaim the transformative potential of the Kuhnian paradigm concept in encouraging novel, interesting and relevant research and theorizing. After positioning the contribution of the Kuhnian paradigm and its significance in the philosophy of science, we describe the negative impacts of a research community’s preoccupation with the epistemological sense of paradigm, which ignited within the organizational sciences decades of unnecessary “paradigm wars” and a misplaced focus on methodology. We show how this epistemological rendering of paradigm, which is adopted by the IS field, differs from the opinions of well-known critics of Kuhn and how this view obscures the Kuhnian paradigm’s potential for innovative research. To provide valuable insights into these issues, we introduce Masterman’s interpretation of Kuhn’s model, which Kuhn himself endorses, and unpack the paradigm concept into its metaphysical, sociological and artifactual components. Using Masterman’s interpretation to highlight the primary meaning of Kuhn’s paradigm concept as model problem-solution and exemplar, we describe how this multifaceted transformative view of paradigm benefits the IS field.
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