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Presentation to Critical Management Studies in 2006 about the concept of 'events' in the context of situation thought. This paper was later developed into a book chapter.

Presentation to Critical Management Studies in 2006 about the concept of 'events' in the context of situation thought. This paper was later developed into a book chapter.

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  • 1. Exploring ‘Events’ as an Information Systems Research Methodology Anita Greenhill Manchester Business School The University of Manchester Gordon Fletcher Information Systems Institute University of Salford
  • 2. The Focus
    • To define how the examination of the ‘event’ is an appropriate, viable and useful Information Systems methodology
    • Focus on the ‘event’ enables the researcher to clearly observe and capture the complexity, multiplicity and mundaneity of everyday lived experience
    • The use and notion of ‘event’ has the potential to reduce the methodological dilemmas associated with the micromanagement of the research process
  • 3. ‘ Event’ & ‘Event scene’
    • ‘ Events’ are the combination of situations and occurrences that have persistent significance to a social group as shared meaning-making and identity-making constructions (Urry 2002)
    • A means of representing theoried inquiry that loosen the restrictions that historical and temporally bound analysis imposes upon most interpretative approaches
    • Originates from the action based (and anti-academy) imperatives of the Situationists and emerged in an academic sense as critical situational analysis
  • 4. ‘ Event’
    • Various forms of multi-dimensional expression are drawn upon to enrich the understandings of the ‘event’, to extricate its meaning and to provide a sense of the moment from which the point of analysis stems
    • The foundation of this work is drawn from the situationism of deBord's (1994) Society of the Spectacle , de Certeau (1988), Lefebvre (1992) and a cautious reading of Baudrillard (1993; 1998) regarding simulation and hyperreality
  • 5. Situationism
    • “ The whole life of those societies in which modern conditions of production prevail presents itself as an immense accumulation of spectacles. All that once was directly lived has become mere representation.” (De Bord)
    • Addresses the mundane, the integrative blend of moments that constitute everyday life, the non-linearity of experience, the illogic of expectations, the indeterminant acceleration and deceleration of personal temporality and the moments of the unexpected or unforeseen (Albright 2003; Plant 1997; De Bord 1994)
  • 6. The research agenda
    • The researcher has a politically obligation to represent any event as an event scene – the excised moment of observation and experience captured and individually emphasized by them
    • This representation of human experiences has the potential to reveal alternative and important understandings of IS development and use
    • Events offer different meanings to different social groups that reflect divergent genealogies of past events
    • Within information systems research attention to structure and process results in a lack of sensitivity to the everyday and constant interplay of events
  • 7. IS and an event scene methodology
    • Events exist in a variety of forms including version change, system failure, new personnel and new cohorts of ‘users’
    • Events are imprecisely situated within an historical, temporal, political and locational morass
    • IS events are understood by their shifting interrelationship to one another rather than their position in a timeline or management regime
    • The documentation of future events as procedures and system designs embeds bias that are effaced by the internal ‘logic’ of a system’s design
  • 8. Critical Focus
    • The indirect experience of the event encapsulates a hidden but mediating representation that contributes to the obfuscation of the influences that the holders of ‘real’ power have in contemporary society
    • The way events are represented through a seemingly neutral ‘methodology’ is consequently recognized as a powerful aspect of the research process. This is how research contributes to political agendas that preserve existing structures of mainstream power
  • 9. Critique
    • The issue being critiqued here is the current practice within IS research for continuous - but empty - justification and reiteration of “its” methods. This practice obscures recognition of the continuous sequence of interrelated events that is the system in order to emphasize the research activity and to legitimate itself
    • More significantly, this debate concerning methodological appropriateness obscures examination of real power holders who benefit from events that are being represented
  • 10. IS as Everyday Life
    • Everyday life is the venue for the construction and articulation of events. This observation has relevance to the understanding of IS because in the realm of everyday life systems cease to exist in any systematic or singular sense
    • Information systems (whatever these may be) as an experience of everyday life merely become a surfeit of received information so that “today, the population is subjected to a continuous bombardment of damned stupidities that are not in the least dependent on the mass media” (De Bord 2002, 130)
  • 11. Rejecting Linearity
    • This approach is a rejection of the assumption that a linearity of practice exists within “systems”
    • Usual understandings of “the system” include belief in an a priori presence of a system ‘merely’ because the concentrated accumulation and re-presentations of information is labeled this way
    • An event-oriented method, in contrast, integrates the illogical asemiosis of experience that eschews the application of management process and articulates the arhythmic patterns of life.
  • 12. Managerialism
    • Many systems designs rely on an absence of non-processual alterations to the meaning of information - no unforeseen events. The experience of the system is regarded as a continuous timeline of neatly packaged and logical actions
    • Example 1: Assessment of the company’s situation was carried out primarily in managerial terms, rather than event oriented terms, as the employees themselves claim...
    • Example 2: We need to be better at exploiting the knowledge from previous projects, much better, so we don't make the same things again and again and again. (Henrik in Baskerville and Pries-Heje 1998, 183)
  • 13. Multiplicity
    • From the event perspective information in a system does not provide any fixed meaning. Instead there is an array of interrelated meanings - variously interpreted.
    • It is only the associations crafted through organisational culture that produces mutually shared meanings.
    • The method of multiplicity employs dislocation, by taking any object and disassociating its different moments
    • This is similar to détournement – the disentanglement of cultural products to present new and oppositional meanings. This approach plays with the meanings of the single and the multiple and their interlocking relationships
  • 14. Multiple Meanings
    • The assertion that information always holds multiple meanings challenges methodological assumptions surrounding the construction and representation of meaning that presumes a linear mono-dimensional process (Baudrillard 1994)
    • An event-oriented perspective enables the identification of many taken-for-granted positions not found in current methodological frameworks through the act of détournement - revealing rather than obscuring the political environment around which information is manipulated (Baskerville, Travis & Truex 1992)
  • 15. détournement
    • “ the integration of past or present artistic production into a superior construction of a milieu”
    • In Information Systems this is the inter-related combination of events that are not constrained by the arbitrary boundary of a documented system
    • This requires the act of the dérive - to drift and discern the location of these relevant but distanciated events requires an attitude that mirrors Baudelaire's flaneur who is not constrained by the conventions that the recuperated information system seeks to sustain and perpetuate upon its hierarchically labeled and systemically controlled users
  • 16. Method
    • “ The distortions introduced in the détourned elements must be as simplified as possible, since the main impact of a détournement is directly related to the conscious or semiconscious recollection of the original contexts of the elements.” (De Bord & Wolman 1956)
    • This tactic/method is not an anarchic free for all but rather a considered and theoried technique that is specifically endeavouring to produce a political response to the observed world
  • 17. Conclusion
    • Not a meta method for IS research
    • An attempt to incorporate the complexities of everyday life and the subtleties of political meaning into the sterility of systems thinking
    • Event-oriented perspectives use détournement for the purpose of understanding existing environments and contributing to the development of future systems ‘architecture’ by rebuilding the parts in new, unexpected and politically challenging ways.
  • 18. Conclusion and Action
    • IS has been recuperated from its inception. Its methods, philosophy and advocacy continuously returns to questions of business efficiency, process improvement and time management
    • As information systems become increasingly domesticated continuous and automatic reiteration of dominant perspectives without debate or critique will perpetuate existing mainstream regimes of power and oppression