[AISWorld] A small revolution in the IS field

John Artz jartz at gwu.edu
Thu Jan 3 16:34:45 EST 2013

Dear Colleagues,

I would point out that physics was around for 2,000 years, from Aristotle
to Newton, before it began to produce really impressive results. If we are
willing to wait for another 2,000 years for the research in Information
Systems to eventually lead to something, I am confident that the field will
produce some really impressive results as well. However, if we do not wish
to wait that long we might ask what we can do to speed things up a bit.

We can just keep stumbling around and eventually enough research will
accumulate for a pattern to appear which will make sense out of what we are
doing. I have every confidence that this will eventually happen and I have
every confidence that by the time it does, we (and several subsequent
generations) will all be long past the point of caring.

I would like to offer a few fairly simple questions, the answers to which
would greatly speed up progress in the field.

What are the constituents of the field? That is, what is the field about?
What are we studying?

For that matter, what is an information system? (The text book definition
is almost worthless for research purposes)

What would we like to know about the constituents of the field?

How are we likely to find out the things we would like to know?

These are largely philosophical questions. And instead of asking if
philosophy is relevant to IS, as is a current mantra, we should be asking
if the field is going to make any reasonable progress in any reasonable
amount of time if the philosophers of IS don’t get busy and try to answer

Just a few thought,


On Thu, Jan 3, 2013 at 11:17 AM, Ilia Bider <ilia at ibissoft.se> wrote:

>  Hi Nick,
> Thanks for posting your reflections. It was fascinating to observer the
> unfolding discussions.
> Realizing that one created a monster by one's own will is the first step
> on the way of cutting off its heads.
> On 2012-12-30 20:32, Nik R Hassan wrote:
> *A small revolution in the IS field*
> As we approach the end of yet another year in the history of the IS field,
> I'd like to say how glad I was to have attended ICIS this year. It may just
> be me, but I think I just witnessed a small revolution taking place (at
> least in North America) in the field. I heard IS scholars making
> unconventional remarks I have not heard before. I enclose some quotes, and
> what went through my mind in parenthesis [I am just reporting - please
> don't shoot the messenger :-) ].
> [Varun*] "We can do very good research, but that doesn't mean we are
> producing good knowledge … can we create 'better' knowledge?… exciting,
> innovative and addressing important questions of our time"
> (wha… [my jaw dropping] did Varun just say what I thought he said?? He's
> admitting we're not producing good knowledge?)
> [Varun] "are we scripting the way we do research....requiring us to select
> a theory and apply it to our phenomena, create a mid-level model and then
> refine it ... add mediators and moderators to it … Does this script work
> for good knowledge?"
> (Wow … I kinda think everyone knew that was the game, the standard
> publishing script, and I was taught exactly that in school, but to hear a
> scholar say it in public and analyze it … cool!)
> [Bernard**] "I've been looking back at all the work that I've done… I
> don't think I've done enough ... We really should be doing research to
> resolve significant global problems...
> (if Bernard feels he hasn't contributed much, how much have the rest of us
> done?)
> [Bernard] ... at NUS, we've put together an inter-disciplinary team and
> received a big grant using social media to reduce pests ... and increase
> food production ... Let's not be too fixated about whether MISQ or ISR
> would publish such research ... let's target our work at Nature or Science
> .... to earn the respect of others outside our community
> (that's easy for him to say, he's already published tons in MISQ and ISR.
> But isn't there something wrong with the picture? Isn't research that's
> frequently published in the top journals of the field that's supposed to
> make their way to journals like Science and Nature? What does that say
> about our "normal" research?)
> [Manju**]  "After we have had the satisfaction of publishing in MISQ or
> ISR, and at least after making tenure and Full, it is time to start
> thinking about researching big ideas that make a difference "
> (Publishing 2-3 papers in MISQ and ISR, and getting full professor is
> going to take at least 10-20 years out of the most productive years of
> anyone's life, if they're fortunate enough to get there. Shouldn't those
> most productive years already be spent in researching big ideas? Shouldn't
> big ideas be some part of getting a full professorship in IS?)
> [Steven Alter in a follow up email]
> Our ICIS panel "DSR … remind me again about whether it is a new research
> paradigm or a rationale of last resort …" chaired by Allen Lee, with Steven
> Alter, Helmut Krcmar, and Mike Chiasson … remarks similar to Varun … that
> DSR is increasingly governed by a script that makes papers easier to review
> but … becoming an obstacle to genuine innovation … script encourages DSR
> researchers to do design-related work in a way in which few if any
> designers actually design things in the real world, which is especially
> unfortunate for a type of research that is called design SCIENCE research."
> All of these remarks are making me rethink about the notion of "value" in
> our work (not to be confused with "usefulness" or "utility"). It's close to
> "relevance" but since relevance has so much baggage attached to it, perhaps
> we should be taking a closer look at what valuable research really means.
> What kind of IS research is valuable anyway?
> Nik Rushdi Hassan
> Univ of Minnesota Duluth
> Chair SIG Philosophy
> *Varun Grover and Kalle Lyytinen presented at the SIG Philosophy Workshop
> at ICIS on "IS Theory-State of the Art" - available soon on the SIG
> Philosophy homepage
> **Bernard Tan and Manju Ahuja presented at the Senior Scholars Panel at
> ICIS 2012 chaired by Fred Niederman
> --
> Nik R. Hassan, PhD
> Assoc. Professor, Finance & MIS Dept.
> Labovitz School of Business and Economics
> University of Minnesota Duluth
> 1318 Kirby Drive, LSBE 335Q
> Duluth MN 55812
> Office Phone: (218) 726-7453
> Fax: (218) 726-7516
> Home Page: www.d.umn.edu/~nhassan <http://www.d.umn.edu/%7Enhassan>
> LinkedIn http://www.linkedin.com/pub/nik-rushdi-hassan/33/591/a9b
> Email: nhassan at d.umn.edu
> _______________________________________________
> AISWorld mailing listAISWorld at lists.aisnet.org
> --
> ===============================================
> Dr. Ilia Bider
> Process- och systemutvecklingskonsult at ibissoft.se
> Lektor & Forskare at DSV.su.seilia at ibissoft.se        +46 (0)8 164998
> Creating an agile eneterprise  http://t.co/5nJdNBev
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*John M. Artz, PhD
Webpages: http://home.gwu.edu/~jartz
Email: jartz at gwu.edu
Men are not influenced by things but by their thoughts about things

*  The geometry of innocent flesh on the bone
*  Causes Galileo's math book to get thrown
*  At Delilah who's sitting worthlessly alone
*  But the tears on her cheeks are from laughter.
This delightful piece of post modern poetry is from
Tombstone Blues by Bob Dylan (Highway 61 Revisited)


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