Is information systems a discipline Foucauldian and Toulminian insights

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Following the Kleinian spirit, this study takes a critical view of the existing orthodoxy within information systems (IS) and reframes the ongoing discussion concerning the intellectual core, identity and disciplinary status of IS using the disciplinary analysis of Michel Foucault and Stephen Toulmin. Instead of limiting the discussion to specific paradigms, topics, subjects or content, it focuses on the characteristics, rules and goals of IS as an academic field. A disciplinary lens is used to frame what it means to be a field, discipline and science, and in the process the study uncovers four doxas that have shaped the development of the IS field: (1) the IS research community sees no difference between fields, disciplines or sciences; (2) IT changes so rapidly, and thus the IS field needs to change to remain relevant; (3) disciplines are by definition rigid, inflexible and uni-theoretical and (4) because IS is pluralistic, IS should not become a discipline. This study's analyses of the IS field's discursive formation and intellectual ideals offer novel perspectives that allow for the integration of the IS field's plurality and diversity. To transform the IS field from its multimodal existence into a vibrant, diverse, academically and socially relevant and influential discipline, the study proposes actionable strategies that include (1) agreeing on the intellectual ideals for IS, (2) focusing on conceptual formation, (3) focusing on theory construction, (4) erecting genealogical boundaries and (5) fostering the development of professional bodies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)456-476
Number of pages21
JournalEuropean Journal of Information Systems
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2011

Bibliographical note

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  • Hilosophy of science
  • IS theory
  • archaeology of knowledge
  • disciplinary theory
  • information systems (IS) disciplinarity
  • intellectual structure


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