Primavera Research Seminars – 2009/2011

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Annual Research Symposium

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Last for the year:27 May 2011: Rudy Hirschheim
29 April 2011: Pieter Jan Stappers
08 April 2011: Ulrich Frank
11 March 2011: David Avison
18 February 2011: Jaap Boonstra
18 February 2011: Marleen Huysman
28 January 2011: Frantz Rowe
02 December 2010: Midyear Symposium
12 November 2010: Karlheinz Kautz
15 October 2010: Chun Wei Choo
03 September 2010: Chris Breen
04 June 2010: Jannis Kallinikos
21 May 2010: Peter Gloor
09 April 2010: Carlos Osorio
09 April 2010: Charles Forceville
12 March 2010: Kalle Lyytinen
19 February 2010: Claudia Loebbecke
29 January 2010: Arnold Smeulders
04 December 2009: Antony Bryant
13 November 2009: Dov Te’eni
16 October 2009: Rob van Kranenburg
08 September 2009: Matt Germonprez
29 May 2009: Joan E. van Aken
15 May 2009: Jos de Mul
24 April 2009: Richard J. Boland
17 April 2009: Pieter Adriaans
20 march 2009: Ulrike Schultze
13 March 2009: DongBack Seo
27 February 2009: Kalle Lyytinen
13 February 2009: Michael Newman
23 January 2009: Lucas Introna
Unless noted otherwise, all seminars are on Fridays 10:00-12:00
at Roetersstraat 11, Amsterdam (see room number in parenthesis)
pointer_orange Seminar: 27 May 2011

The Emergence of the Online Sourcing Marketplace: A Third Wave of Outsourcing*

Rudy HirschheimRudy Hirschheim
Louisiana State University


Outsourcing has been evolving for the last twenty years. We have seen the emergence of IT outsourcing in the late 80s, morphing to offshoring in the late 90s, and moving into the business process outsourcing space from simple IT outsourcing. More recently, we have witnessed the emergence of new form of outsourcing which we term Online Sourcing Marketplace (OSM) which is defined as an Internet environment where clients and providers of business services can meet, offer and bid for jobs, settle contracts, and carry out financial transactions. We apply this definition broadly and do not impose any constraints with respect to either a model of the interaction between clients and providers (e.g., auction, contest etc) or to the scope and nature of services traded (e.g., IT, legal, writing etc.). Some may see this as a quasi extension of eBay; perhaps, but we feel the development of the OSM space signals a step change in the way services will be provided to organizations in the future. To some extent this is an amalgam of the Open Source movement, Jeff Howe’s crowdsourcing movement, and Tom Malone’s e-lancer movement. Our view of the OSM environment would be consistent with Malone’s view that businesses are transforming themselves from dense, centralized hierarchies to loosely federated networks of workers, consultants and specialists. Indeed, a key feature of OSM is that everything is truly global – clients, platforms, and suppliers may reside anywhere in the world. Currently, there is little experience with the OSM sourcing space, but in this seminar, I’ll presenting the results of joint research project involving researchers from LSU, IESE, and American University which shows that organizations are just now beginning to understand what OSM is and how this could dramatically alter the sourcing landscape, in particular how OSM will likely to impact the way organizations source their services.
* Advance registration is required.

pointer_orange Seminar: 29 April 2011

Design Thinking in Research, New Product Development, and Elsewhere

Pieter Jan Stappers

Pieter Jan Stappers
TU Delft


The field of design is broadening rapidly: its object has moved from products to services and systems; the people doing it are merging increasingly broader backgrounds. In the past decade, ‘experience design’, ‘co-creation’, ‘service design’, and ‘design thinking’, have been taken up in both serious development and cycles of hyped publicity. In this seminar, I will focus on a few connected themes of the design ingredient, with which I coped in my research the past two decades. First, in generative design research, designer’s tools are brought to consumers to empower them to participate in design processes, such as the development of new products and services. Second, we have seen the rise of design as a research discipline in itself. Third, the underestimated role of design thinking in research in general. In the seminar I will bring some hands-on experience, present background on the above themes, and hope to have a lively discussion with the participants.

pointer_orange Seminar: 08 April 2011

Enterprise Modeling: Key Concepts, Prospects and Challenges

Ulrich Frank
University of Duisburg-Essen


The development and management of enterprise information systems face remarkable challenges. They include the tremendous complexity of large, often heterogeneous software systems, rapid technological change and ever-changing requirements. In addition to that planning, introducing and managing these systems are often hindered by the notorious cultural chasm between IT professionals and business people. To cope with the complexity of software systems, conceptual models have been used in software engineering for long. However, it is not sufficient to focus on software systems alone. Instead, it is required to consider simultaneously both information technology and organizational issues. Multi-perspective enterprise models extend models of software systems with models of the surrounding action system. For this purpose, they make use of domain-specific modeling languages that are based on reconstructing domain-specific languages and that feature intuitive graphical notations. Thereby, multi-perspective enterprise models foster the collaboration of various stakeholders in an enterprise and foster the design of enterprise systems that are in line with a company’s strategy and organization. The seminar will present key concepts of multi-perspective enterprise models to illustrate their support for designing and managing complex information systems.

pointer_orange Seminar: 11 March 2011

Shedding Light on IS Practice with Qualitative Research

David Avison
ESSEC Business School


This presentation provides a brief overview of some examples of qualitative research carried out by the author with academic colleagues, research students and MSc students. These examples include action research projects to understand information systems development; case study research to understand IS failure and success; and an example of research using hermeneutics and another using conversation analysis. Hopefully the presentation will lead to a discussion about the potential of qualitative research in providing insights into the domain of information systems; its strengths and weaknesses.

pointer_orange Seminar: 18 February 2011

Action Inquiry: Research as an Adventure

Jaap Boonstra

Jaap Boonstra

University of Amsterdam and
Esade Business School


In this interactive workshop, the participants will experiment with some principles of Action Inquiry, and subsequently will be invited to share their own research methodology with each other and to compare this methodology with the principles of Action Inquiry. Some real life situations will be introduced and the participants will be asked to develop a research methodology for these situations based on Action Inquiry. Among others, we will cover Action Inquiry, Action Research, Naturalistic Inquiry, and Appreciative Inquiry as inspiring research methods that can generate knowledge and mobilize sustainable positive change.

pointer_orange Seminar: 18 February 2011

Organizational Learning through Social Media: A Socio-Materiality Approach

marleen huysman

Marleen Huysman
VU University


Organizational practitioners and scholars agree that social media will influence the processes through which organizations acquire, integrate and develop new knowledge, also referred to as organizational learning processes. These assumptions however are mainly based on technological foresight studies and writings in popular press; so far only a very few studies focus on the actual technological affordances and social practices of knowledge sharing when organizational members use social media. Social media can be considered a container concept, referring to IT characterized by bottom up “user generated content,” relying on social network interactions of an often ‘unknown crowd’ with fluid boundaries. During this seminar we will explore models of learning processes as well as research based on a socio-materiality perspective that allows for studying the influence of social media use on organizational learning.

pointer_orange Seminar: 28 January 2011

Knowledge Transfer, Knowledge Translation and Collaborative Leadership: The Case of Product Development in International Inter-Organizational Context

Frantz RoweFrantz Rowe
Université de Nantes


An important question for information systems researchers and practitioners is how information technology can improve new product development in the international inter-organizational context. More precisely, this seminar aims to explore how Product Lifecycle Management technology contributes to new product development and knowledge integration based on a longitudinal case study of a European consumer goods industry group that has greatly increased development work in China.

pointer_orange Seminar: 12 November 2010

A Framework for Understanding Agile Software Development in Practice

Karlheinz KautzKarlheinz Kautz
Copenhagen Business School


Over the last ten years, Agile Software Development (ASD) has received much attention from researchers and practitioners as an approach for dealing with change. However, the proper application area and the use of a mixed agile and traditional, more plan-driven approach are still much debated. In this talk, we report from a mission critical project that was considered agile by the involved staff, but which actually employed a mixed agile and plan-driven strategy. We introduce a framework, which allows for (1) descriptive analysis of the project, (2) its discussion against the agile values as presented in the agile manifesto, and (3) a comparison of findings to Complex Adaptive Systems (CAS) theory. We contribute to the debate with rich insight about: which work practices were applied in practice? which of the applied work practices were agile and/or which were more plan-driven in nature? and which of the applied practices fit with CAS theory and/or with a more plan-driven perspective? The analysis of our case shows that some of the agile practices were used in a way that supported both agile values and a traditional focus on processes, documentation, and planning. Moreover, certain traditional practices were in line with CAS theory, while some agile practices fit both CAS and traditional concepts. We suggest that to understand ASD in practice it is relevant to investigate how the applied practices are actually used in the particular case and that the agile manifesto and CAS theory are useful, complementary lenses for doing so.

pointer_orange Seminar: 15 October 2010

Knowing and Learning in Organizations: Information and the Enactment of Meaning, Knowledge and Decisions

Chun Wei Choo
University of Toronto


People and groups in organizations use information in three arenas. In sensemaking, they use information to construct meanings that form a shared context for action and reflection. In knowledge creation, they develop new knowledge and capabilities in order to solve problems and pursue opportunities. In decision making, they act on possibilities and aspirations by committing resources to courses of action. It is the interplay between sensemaking, knowledge creation, and decision making that shapes an organization’s capacity to use information effectively for learning and innovation.

pointer_orange Seminar: 03 September 2010

Opening the Space of Possibility in Teaching, Learning and Leadership in Complex Times

Chris Breen
University of Cape Town


As someone born and raised in South Africa, who spent 25 years in the field of mathematics education, it seems inevitable that the focus of my work in the academy has been on teaching and learning in a time of change. In recent years, I have drawn on this academic base to increasingly focus my new work on personal leadership in general, but specifically on trying to understand the demands of leading in complex times and making decisions in the moment. This work has been informed by ideas and practice that has its roots in my earlier mathematics education work, in particular from theories concerning enactivism (Varela and Maturana), complexity science education (Davis) and the Discipline of Noticing (Mason). My IMphd seminar will give participants the opportunity to experience some of the practical and theoretical journey that I have taken over this time and the invitation will be for those attending to consider the possible implications that my story might have for their own work and research.

pointer_orange Seminar: 04 June 2010

Technology and Governance

Jannis Kallinikos
London School of Economics


Research on information technologies has by and large refrained from the task of theorizing its object. A wide and cross-disciplinary literature is replete with studies (qualitative or quantitative) of one or another problem associated with the growing involvement of information technologies and systems in organizations but theorizing on technology is a rare bird. This state of affairs is the joint outcome of several reasons. It has certainly been aggravated by the spectre of technological determinism and the long shadows it continues to cast across a range of disciplines, including information and media studies, organizational theory and the social study of technology. An important consequence has been the limited understanding we have of the impact technology has on the structuring and governance of organizations. Such an impact, it should be noted, cannot be assessed by single-shot case studies of limited duration. Rather, it has to be analytically reconstructed out of range of empirical observations made over larger time spans.

In my talk, I will develop a few ideas as to how technology could be seen as a complex regime involved in the making and regulation of human affairs in institutional settings. Such a task requires confronting the key issue concerning the distinctive ontological identity of technology and whether and how technology may differ from other modes of structuring and governing human behaviour. It is important in this regard to dissociate technology from the imagery of production force to which it is commonly tied. The growing implication of information technologies in organizational procedures and communication-based operations indicate that governance rather than productivity is the key problem technology seeks to resolve in institutional settings. Placed in such a context, it would be possible to distinguish between technology, structure and culture as the major regimes by which institutions seek to layout the paths along which human agency can assume recognizable, accountable and ultimately governable forms. Technology as a regulative regime obtains its distinctive ontological identity thanks to the variety of strategies of functional simplification and reification by which it lays out its prescriptive order. Technology just works through reification (objectification) Thus conceived, it differs from social structure and the latter’s heavy reliance on formal role systems and the differentiation of roles and duties (e.g. hierarchy), and culture that relies primarily on the interiorization of norms and action patterns as the key modality of forging legible and accountable patterns of action.

pointer_orange Seminar: 21 May 2010

Collaborative Innovation Networks: Coolhunting through Swarmcreativity

Peter A. Gloor
Sloan School of Management, MIT


Collaborative Innovation Networks, or COINs, are cyberteams of self-motivated people with a collective vision, enabled by technology to collaborate in innovating by sharing ideas, information, and work. Although COINs have been around for hundreds of years, they are especially relevant today because the concept has reached its tipping point thanks to the Internet. COINs are powered by swarm creativity, wherein people work together in a structure that enables a fluid creation and exchange of ideas. ‘Coolhunting’ — discovering, analyzing, and measuring trends and trendsetters – puts COINs to productive use. Patterns of collaborative innovation always follow the same path, from creator to COIN to collaborative learning network to collaborative interest network. The talk also introduces Condor, a tool for dynamic semantic social network analysis. Condor applies a novel set of social network analysis based algorithms for mining the Web, blogs, and online forums to identify trends and find the people launching these new trends. The temporal calculation of betweenness of concepts permits to extract and predicts long-term trends on the popularity of relevant concepts such as brands, movies, and politicians.

pointer_orange Seminar: 9 April 2010

Making a Difference between Success and Failure in Innovation Projects: Evidence from Theory and the Field

Carlos A. Osorio
Adolfo Ibañez School of Management


Systemic and continuous innovation is among the most wanted, yet elusive, capacities wanted by modern firms. These capacities have long been thought as inherent to gifted managers and designers, but recent theories and practices provide foundations for better systematizing innovative processes. This seminar focuses on understanding: what critical factors do explain differences between success and failure in innovation? And why do such differences exist within a company? The study of successes and failures of eight innovative firms in the Basque Region (Spain), shows that outcomes of innovation projects are highly sensitive to differences on the planning and management of their development processes, and lack of “failure management” within firms. In particular, 43% of critical decisions are associated to planning an innovation process, helping teams to better manage sources of uncertainty, ambiguity and risk associated to “how” to solve a problem (typical among successful projects), rather than “what to develop” (typical among failed projects). Commonalities among failed projects include: (i) starting from ideas perceived as worthy, (ii) emergence of most problems during the latest phases of development, (iii) focus into listening to the customer, and (iv) low investment and intensity in experimentation and prototyping. Successful projects teams, however, (i) start from worthy problems or opportunities, (ii) invest in front-loading problem identification and solving, (iii) do not listen to customer, but focus on observing and testing them, (iv) and spend more time in concept generation, prototyping an testing. Surprisingly, the development of a successful project does not take longer or is more expensive than a failed one. The results of this research contain useful lessons for practitioners, and relevant questions for further research, about how to achieve superior performance in new product and service development through organizational capabilities based on how to implement innovation processes.

pointer_orange Seminar: 9 April 2010

Relevance Theory and the Communication of Pictures and Other Non-Verbal Information

Charles Forceville
University of Amsterdam


Human beings are thoroughly purpose-driven creatures. In order to achieve their goals in life (e.g., food, shelter, love, money, artistic catharsis, fame, respect, catching a plane), people constantly, even automatically, judge phenomena confronting them by how these phenomena could help advance, or jeopardize, their goals. Dan Sperber and Deirdre Wilson make the search for goal-enhancing information the centre-piece of their communication model, Relevance Theory, claiming that all human communication revolves around optimizing relevance. Although the authors present their theory as holding for all types of information, it is based on face-to-face communication. In this talk, after briefly outlining the key ideas of Relevance Theory, I will show and discuss a number of “texts,” some of them metaphorical, that impart information visually, usually in combination with language and other modalities (e.g., music, sound, gestures) in the light of Sperber and Wilson’s theory. The “texts” to be discussed include advertisements, commercials, logos, cartoons, comic panels, and animation films. Overall, we will reflect on (1) the ways in which non-verbal differs from verbal information in achieving relevance; and (2) the shared knowledge and values any communicator presupposes in his or her audience.

pointer_orange Seminar: 12 March 2010

The Market of Ideas as the Center of the IS Field

Kalle Lyytinen
Case Western Reserve University


The center of the IS field is presented as a market of ideas, an intellectual exchange related to the design and management of information technologies in organized human enterprise. In this view, the IS field is a loosely coupled system operating through weak social ties across intellectual communities. A loosely coupled system can operate towards contradictory goals of both plasticity and stability in the search for new research opportunities and generation of valid knowledge. The market of ideas allows reconciliation of rigor and relevance, technical and social, design and explanation. It lowers the barriers of established disciplinary regimes and institutions, and facilitates scholarship in fields where conditions change quickly. It helps to balance exploration and exploitation in an effort to avoid competency traps. Examples of market related processes of theory and idea exchange are offered and reviewed Limitations of the metaphor are considered.

pointer_orange Seminar: 19 February 2010

Inter-Organizational Innovation Networks: The challenge of Knowledge Creation and Knowledge Management

Claudia Loebbecke
University of Cologne


Knowledge has become increasingly complex and costly to achieve. However, it sets a fundamental competitive requirement in knowledge-intensive industries. Organizations participate in inter-organizational innovation networks to achieve cost-effective access to specialized knowledge. This presentation investigates why and how organizations participate in such inter-organizational endeavors. It introduces major conceptual arguments along the lines of knowledge creation and management in the real world, i.e. under coopetition. Subsequently, it discusses the main conceptual arguments along the lines of two or three cases, from the pharmaceutical, the financial and the retailing industry. It shows how companies increasingly gain knowledge in inter-organizational networks and must share a common formative context with the specialized knowledge-producing agents in order to internalize the knowledge effectively. The presentation identifies knowledge-related core competences as the ability to gather and internally re-combine knowledge and industry-wide innovation leadership. It concludes with relating the case studies back to a more theoretically oriented research agenda and hopes to open a discussion about the potentials and the limitations of innovation and knowledge management research activities.

pointer_orange Seminar: 29 January 2010

Exploring Further the Impact of Information and Communication Technology

Arnold W.M. Smeulders
University of Amsterdam


When asking people how ICT has affected their work, they tend to answer that everything is faster, cheaper, more expensive, or slower. In other words, they tend to answer the question on the processes underlying their profession. This is the automation side of ICT, decisive to many professions and professionals. It has delivered digital prosperity. In contrast, I would like to take the question one level further and investigate with you the question: What is the tangible impact of ICT on substance? Can we see and feel the impact of ICT on the earth, on living, on history? Will architects build different buildings? We have to live with impressions, small facts and strictly personal interviews on the impact of ICT.

pointer_orange Seminar: 04 December 2009

Tony Bryant

Mutuality 2.0

Antony Bryant
Leeds Metropolitan University


In the wake of the economic melt-down and resulting credit-crunch a number of issues have been raised with regard to the contributory or even causal role of information and communication technologies. Clearly ICTs lie at the heart of the global financial system, so the technology must have been involved in some way. But it is also important to look at the ways in which the technology opens up various alternatives for the future, since widespread and profound discussion of alternatives is often only possible for brief periods when the ‘conventional wisdom’ is thrown into doubt. In many respects the various government interventions amount to nationalization of significant segments of the financial sector, but the idea of nationalization – state ownership and control – goes directly against the conventional wisdom dating from the 1980s, that the market is preferable to state control; private ownership is more effective and responsive than state ownership. In my recent article ‘Back to the Future: Mutuality 2.0’, published at Open Democracy (link given below), I argued that the idea of mutual ownership coupled with developments emanating from the Open Source model offers an alternative worthy of further investigation. Yet although there have been some calls for mutualization from both politicians and economists, these have not really been taken very far or given serious consideration. In my talk I will outline the ways in which the Open Source model might indeed provide the basis for an alternative, although as time passes it becomes more likely that the conventional wisdom will be re-asserted as the basis for ‘business-as-usual’. For further information and related references, see:

pointer_orange Seminar: 13 November 2009

Knowledgeable Systems Development: The Case of Using Theory for Communication Support SyDov Te'enistems

Dov Te’eni
Tel-Aviv University


I have two messages in this talk. First, I present some guidelines for developing communication support systems that are derived from theories of communication, which model how users adapt their communication behavior in the face of communication complexity. For instance, systems should support the user’s choice of communicating more or less contextual information but the system should discourage unnecessary messages even when users are tempted to over contextualize. Secondly, I claim that this case highlights the broader phenomenon of shallow systems analysis, i.e., the lack of theory to guide the modeling of behavior. And lack of theory in systems development, paradoxically, makes the relatively complex systems-analysis methods even less attractive.

pointer_orange Seminar: 16 October 2009

The Internet of Things: From Information Management to Meaning Management

Rob-van-Kranenburg Rob van Kranenburg
Lectoraat Ambient Intelligence
Fontys Applied Sciences


The Internet of Things: imagine a world where everything can be both analogue and digitally approached – reformulates our relationship with objects, things- as well as the objects themselves. Any object that carries an RFID tag relates not only to you, but also through being read by a RFID reader nearby, to other objects, relations or values in a database. In this world, you are no longer alone, anywhere. It holds dangers, but it also holds promises. And maybe it can be the positive solution, the logical step in the history of outsourcing memory to objects, devices and the environment, for the challenges we all face today of an ever growing individualization that might tempt citizens into breaking with existing solidarities ( among race, gender, ethnicity, age) that are currently harnessed through the nation state. What if through The Internet of Things we can create a layer of data, open to all, through which individuals can decide for themselves what they are willing to pay for, to get direct feedback from their voluntary donations, to coordinate community spending that has a direct bearing to their needs, to negotiate with other people in other parts of the world how to use their money? For further information, see:

pointer_orange Seminar: 08 September 2009

A Theory of Tailorable Technology Design

Matt Germonprezmatt germonprez
University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire


Tailorable technologies are a class of information systems designed with the intention that users modify and redesign the technology in the context of use. Tailorable technologies support user goals, intentions, metaphor, and use patterns in the selection and integration of technology functions in the creation of new and unique information systems. We propose a theory of tailorable technology design and identify principles necessary for the initial design. Following a Kantian style of inquiry, we identified four definitional characteristics of tailorable technology: a dual design perspective, user engagement, recognizable environments, and component architectures. From these characteristics, we propose nine design principles that will support the phenomenon of tailoring. Through a year-long case study, we refined and evidenced the principles, finding found that designers of tailorable technologies build environments in which users can both interact and engage with the technology, supporting the proposed design principles. The findings highlight a distinction between a reflective environment, where users recognize and imagine uses for the technology, and an active environment in which users tailor the technology in accordance with the imagined uses. This research contributes to the clarification of the role of theory in design science, expands the concept of “possibilities for action” to IS design, and proposes a design theory of a class of information systems for testing and refinement.

pointer_orange Seminar: 29 May 2009

Design Science Research: Paradigm, Methodology and its Support for the Design of the Social Components of Information Systems

Joan Ernst van Akenjoan_van_aken
Technische Universiteit Eindhoven


Information Systems are socio-technical systems. Their social components are at least as important for performance as their ‘info-technical’ ones. Unfortunately, main stream social science research provides scant support for the design of these social components as it is predominantly based on the paradigm of the explanatory sciences, like physics and sociology. However, there is an increasing research stream in the social sciences, based on the paradigm of the design sciences, like medicine and engineering. This type of research, design science research, can develop knowledge supporting the design of the above-mentioned social components of Information Systems. I will discuss its paradigmatic starting points and methodologies as well as the differences with main stream explanatory research. An important type of research product is the design proposition, its presentation often following the so-called CIMO-logic. Social system design and realization (or the design and realization of the social components of systems) differs from the design and realization of pure technical systems. These differences and their implications for IS-design will be discussed as well.

pointer_orange Seminar: 15 May 2009

Remote Control: Human Autonomy in the Age of Computer-Mediated Agency

Jos de Mul
Erasmus University of Rotterdamjos de Mul


Human beings have always used technologies to strengthen and expand their agency. These technologies enable them to have ‘remote control’ over both the natural and human world. Technological extensions serve to increase the ‘action radius’ of human autonomy. However, seen from a dystopian stance, we should be weary of the fact that human beings will become dependent on or even slaves of technologies. This is worrying, according to dystopians, since we remain responsible for technologies workings’ and their output. The rise of ‘autonomic computing’ appears to bring these fears to a head, because it marks the emergence of technologies that actually display agency, and therefore undermine our agency. In my talk I will argue that this fear is excessive, because it starts from a dichotomous distinction between human agents and technological artifacts, whereas, in fact, human beings and artifacts have always and will always form networks, in which each mutually depends on the other. In Western culture we have long viewed autonomy as one of the main pillars of agency. However, over the last decades scientists of various breeds have shown that a considerable part of our actions is ‘remote controlled’ by both internal and external factors, outside our sphere of control. These factors range from “natural” influences, (genes, passions), to the influences of “nurture” (upbringing, education, religious or secular ideologies). Interestingly, human beings can choose to affirm the forces that motivate them in a reflexive loop, as being their motivating forces. Only in the interplay of our internal and external motivators on the one hand and our own reflexive appropriation on the other do we as agents, emerge. Human agency, in this sense, has always been distributed agency. So how do technological artifacts play a role in the remotely controlled relationship we have to ourselves? We distinguish between three progressive levels of delegating autonomy to artifacts: 1) delegating the completion of a task to a technology, but remaining firmly in control of both the process and the outcome of the task; 2) delegating the process to the technology, while remaining in control of the outcome; 3) delegating both the goals and the processes to the technology. The most pressing question in relation to autonomic computing, I argue, is not whether autonomic computing strengthens human agency or not, but rather under what circumstances it does, and under what circumstances it doesn’t (or under what circumstances it threatens human agency). In my talk I will investigate the answer to this question by discussing a number of real and fictional cases.

pointer_orange Seminar: 24 April 2009

Grabbing onto Things in the Digitized World

Richard J. Boland, Jr.boland
Case Western Reserve University


In this seminar, I consider some of the ways in which we use language to grab onto things and some of the limitations in that effort to posses and shape the world around us. I describe how digital technologies are involved in encouraging this process of grabbing and shaping and the consequences it has in our everyday lives. Digital technologies are a particularly potent medium for our language games. They flatter us into believing that we can grab onto the world by representing it, simulating it, designing it and creating a special knowledge about both the world and its digital technologies. I draw on examples from simple to advanced digital technologies and present an analysis of the dynamics of digitizing as a form of measurement in which the thing being measured becomes ever more ineffable. I argue that increasing the fineness of our ability capture and manipulate things reveals some of the limits of language in general and of information technologies in particular. An underlying theme is the way that “improving” our ability to grab onto and shape things in the world with digital technologies produces a similar outcome to Wittgenstein’s early search for an ideal logic, as reflected in his aphorism that “We feel as if we had to repair a torn spider’s web with our fingers”.

pointer_orange Seminar: 17 April 2009

Information and Computation as Central Categories of Science

Pieter Adriaanspieter_adriaans
Univeristy of Amsterdam


The invention of the steam engine made us think about the notion of “entropy” as lack of order or the power of a system to do work. This concept is more fundamental than its humble engineering background suggests. The same can be said of the concepts of information and computation in relation to the computer. Information is a central notion in disciplines like biology, mathematics, physics, linguistics, economy, etc. It can even help us to understand works of art better.

At the same time we find in the world around us an abundance of natural computational processes. Phenomena like black holes, evolution of species, the growth of living (and inanimate) organisms and creative problem solving all can be understood in terms of computational models. This opens new venues for practical applications (Data mining, machine learning, ontologies, e-science) as well as it confronts us with new research questions. There are various different mathematical definitions of information. What is their relation? The interaction between computation and information is ill-understood. How does information grow with computation? Under what conditions does computation occur spontaneously in nature? In my lecture I will sketch these developments on the basis of a lot of practical examples. For further information see P. Adriaans and J. van Benthem (eds) (2008) Handbook of Philosophy of Information, Elsevier.

pointer_orange Seminar: 20 March 2009

The Avatar-Self Relationship: An Exploratory Study of Identity Negotiation in Second Life

Ulrike Schultzeulrike_schultze
Southern Methodist University


Virtual worlds form an integral part of the 3D web and as such play an increasingly important role in the evolution of our computer-mediated communication infrastructure.  Avatars, which are the representation of the communicator in 3D web applications including email, chat and virtual worlds, are a cornerstone of these new media.  A key affordance of avatars is embodiment, which not only gives communicators visible presence in situations and encounters, but also allows them to engage in practices of the body such as walking, sitting or gesturing.  As such, the avatar serves as a cue for the communicator’s identity and as a powerful visual complement to the more text-based media like IM and email.

Given that avatar appearance and behavior can be easily manipulated for strategic purposes, educators’, marketers’ and organizations’ key concern with regard to virtual worlds is the avatar’s identity vis-à-vis its owner.  This is a dynamic intrapersonal or avatar-self relationship.  Sometimes, avatars serve as an extension of their owner’s self or as an expression of a his/her truer self, that is, one that is not constrained by corporeality and societal norms.  At other times, avatars represent characters, that is, vehicles for role-playing and the exploration of possible and frequently aspirational selves.   Avatars can even become quasi-autonomous agents, at times guiding their owners.  Avatars can also be a form of capital that owners invest in to gain access to experiences and groups.  Then again, the avatar can retreat into the background and become as inconsequential to the communication as a cursor.  The complexity of the avatar-self relationship raises questions about which relationship to invoke for effective communication in educational, commercial and organizational settings, where the owner – not the avatar – is typically the target of communicative action.

The multiplicity of relationships between the owner and his/her primary avatar is the focus of the study whose preliminary results will be the focus of the talk.  Specifically, the study explores the types of avatar-self relationships that are enacted in virtual worlds, and the conditions under which different relationships become salient and why.  Drawing on a sample of residents of Second Life, one of the largest virtual worlds, this investigation relies on real-world, face-to-face interviews, as well as a photo-diary interview method for data collection.  Categories of avatar-self relationships and a framework for understanding when they become salient and why will be developed using interpretive techniques and theories of identity negotiation, narration and boundary management.

pointer_orange Seminar: 13 March 2009

Conceptual Framework for Information Systems and Organizational Agility

DongBack Seodongback_seo
University of Groningen


Many IS researchers agree that Information Systems have been regarded as a black box, despite that conceptualizing information systems has been one of the major topics in information systems research.  Such concern about the lack of understanding of information systems has been shared in the field of organizational studies as well.  In this study, we conceptualize and theorize the relationship between IS and organization agility.  Agility is a critical organizational capability in today’s business environment where the only certainty is its unpredictability.  Positioned as a conceptual study, this research has a number of contributions.  The proposed framework fills the research gap in understanding IS within an organization’s context by dissecting IS and analyzing how IS can contribute to organizational agility.  It also serves practitioners by helping them assess their current IS status and identify agility enablers and barriers.  The framework is also useful when an organization designs its IS infrastructure and architecture to enhance its agility.

pointer_orange Seminar: 27 February 2009

How Absorptive Capacity Affects Radical Innovation in Software Firms?kalle lyytinen

Kalle Lyytinen
Case Western Reserve University


Innovating radically requires software firms to overcome high knowledge barriers associated with the adopting, envisioning, designing and implementing Information Technology (IT) innovations. By applying the lens of absorptive capacity (ACAP) and its two components 1) knowledge base defined by diversity, depth and linkages factors, and 2) routines defined by technology sensing and experimentation factors, we posit that routines mediate the impact of a software firm’s knowledge base on three types of radical IT innovation: 1) platform (base) innovations, 2) process innovations, and 3) Information System Service innovations. Due to the differences in knowledge barriers associated with these innovations and their location in a firm’s innovation ecology we hypothesize different mediation effects for each innovation type. We validate such mediation hypotheses and the overall structure of ACAP by conducting a cross-sector study on the adoption of Internet computing in 120 software firms. The study reveals that: 1) ACAP has a mediated structure where knowledge base factors’ impact on experimentation is mediated by sensing; and 2) routines mediate the impact of a firm’s all knowledge base factors for base and its knowledge diversity for process innovations, but surprisingly for service innovations such effects are void. Radical service innovation is influenced directly only by knowledge diversity and preceding base innovation endowments. The study’s main contributions are:  1) a mediated model of ACAP that explains the impact of a software firm’s knowledge profile on radical IT innovation; 2) the impact of knowledge factors varies significantly between IT innovation types; and 3) the role of external and internal knowledge varies between radical IT innovation types.

pointer_orange Seminar: 13 February 2009

Why Looking Back Could Be Better than Pushing Forward: ISD “Form” as a Predictor of Successmichael_newman

Mike Newman
University of Manchester


The record of failure to deliver large-scale Information Systems (IS) in a timely fashion that offer value to major commercial and public organizations is legendary. Just looking to critical success factors such as top management support and user involvement in order to understand how to deliver better systems can at best be a partial solution. We seem to overlook an obvious area in our organizations: what can we learn from our information system development (ISD) historical patterns? In order to develop this idea we draw on parallels in sport where current performance and behaviour are believed to be closely linked to historical precedents, or “form.” In that domain, historical patterns are a fallible but valuable predictor of success. Our thesis is that past negative patterns in ISD will tend to repeat themselves without radical intervention. Put another way, failure begets failure. After examining the game of football as an allegory for ISD, we look briefly at two organizations that have experienced a pattern of failure in the IS area in the past but have transformed the way they build IS, moving from negative patterns to successful ones. The article ends with suggestions for managers charged with developing new IS as to how they might use their understanding of ISD “form” to improve their chances of success. The paper upon which the above abstract is based was awarded best paper at the ISD conference 2008 in Phaphos, Cyprus.

pointer_orange Seminar: 23 January 2009

Towards a Post-Human Intra-Actional Account of Sociomaterial Agency (and Morality)lucas_introna

Lucas D. Introna
Department of Organisation, Work and Technology
Lancaster University


In the history of ethical thought there has always been an intimate relationship between agency and questions of morality. But what does this mean for artefacts? It would not be too controversial to claim that the idea that artefacts have, or embody, some level of agency—even if it is very limited or derived in some way—has become generally accepted. However, there still seems to be wide disagreements as to what is meant by the agency of artefacts, how it is accounted for, and the subsequent moral implications of such agency. I will suggest that one’s account of the agency of artefacts is fundamental to the subsequent discussion of the moral status and implications of artefacts, or technology more generally. In this paper I will outline two different accounts of sociomaterial agency: (a) a human-centred inter-actional account (Johnson and VSD) and (b) a post-human intra-actional account (Latour, Barad and Heidegger). I will show that the post-human intra-actional account of sociomaterial agency posits the social and technical as ontologically inseparable from the start. Such a position has important implications for how one might understand sociomaterial agency and how one might deal with it. I will propose that the authors in the post-human approach all share what I call a ‘co-constitutive’ account of agency in which agency is not an attribute of the human or the technical as such but rather the outcome of intra-action. I will endeavour to illustrate the implications of such an account for our understanding of sociomaterial agency by considering the phenomenon of plagiarism detection. I will conclude by proposing disclosive ethics (in particular disclosive archaeology) as a possible way forward in dealing with the ethical and political implications of post-human intra-agencies.


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