Sociomateriality in the IS discipline – towards a seamless tapestry

by Saima Khan
The concept of Sociomateriality has been of widespread interest to researchers in disciplines as diverse as organizational studies, sociology of science & technology, and feminist studies, and has played a pivotal role in understanding the interplay between the social and the material in various aspects of everyday organizing. And yet, there still remains a scarcity of literature in the IS discipline in this domain. However, I do observe an increasing interest by IS researchers in the notion of sociomateriality and the recognition that new ways of theorizing IS by advancing and incorporating a sociomaterial schema in the IS discipline is very much needed.

 I believe that we, as IS researchers, also need to re-think beyond the ontological separation and duality between the social and the technical, the subject and the object, people and things etc. and recognize the increasing blurredness between these attributes which is in real life akin to more of a seamless tapestry. We also need to understand that focussing on the duality of these attributes poses conceptual difficulties to what is in reality a constitutive entanglement (Orlikowski, 2007), or a seamless tapestry. For example, sociomaterial practices of IS adoption, or the materiality of everyday IS mediated work (Leonardi and Barley, 2008) illustrate that the social and the material cannot be separated into two distinct entities. It is and remains a constitutive entanglement and any separation or distinction between the two should only be done for analytical purposes.

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One response to “Sociomateriality in the IS discipline – towards a seamless tapestry

  1. In relation to your piece, I would like to raise the question: do we need to keep the separation/distinction of the social and the material for analytical purposes? If we want to create a true Sociomateriality movement in our discipline, can we find ways to even overcome this analytical distinction? E.g. by developing new research methods.

    When I attended the Sociomateriality workshop of Fayard, Orlikowski and Faraj at the Academy of Management in Montreal last summer, one of the main topics that we discussed was how can we also overcome this distinction by developing new approaches and methods to research that does allow us to account for and interpret the social and the material simultaneously. In our discussion, we saw a lot of potential for using video data as a means to capture the constitutive entanglement of the social and the material, since video allows us to capture how people and technology engage together in the course of action. This is only one possibility we came up with, but I think we can probably think of many more possibilities for analyzing sociomateriality.