The IS research community is still struggling with a proper theorisation of the IT-artefact. The debate manifests in questions regarding the effect of IT (Markus and Silver 2008), the identity of systems (Reimers et al. 2009), or more generally the appropriate theoretical tools for studying these systems. Part of the quest for theorising the IT-artefact is whether technology possesses inherent properties affecting human behaviour or if technology is a product of a social construction? The notion of ‘affordance’ seeks to overcome this dualism by positioning itself as a relational concept. An ‘affordance’ is mutually constituted by subject and object. This paper uses the notion of ‘affordance’ to analyse an electronic ordering system between pharmacies and wholesalers. The paper aims to scrutinise different means of ordering from a pharmacist’s perspective. In doing so, benefits as well as challenges of using ‘affordances’ to study the IT-artefact are exemplified. The paper demonstrates that ‘affordance’ as an analytical tool offers a much richer analysis of empirical data than a mere description of functional properties would allow. Despite its merits, the paper finds that the notion of ‘affordance’ requires theoretical extensions in order to render it more suitable for the study of interorganisational information systems.


IT-artefact, affordances, interorganisational information system, ecological psychology


ISBN: [978-1-86435-644-1]; Full paper