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Ethnography, ethnomethodology and the problem of generalisation in design
Sharrock W., Randall D. European Journal of Information Systems13 (3):186-194,2004.Type:Article
Date Reviewed: Mar 3 2005

Papers that discuss issues in the relationship between theory and method, in information systems (IS) design, are a real rarity. Crossing over so many disciplinary boundaries, these exotic papers may appeal to a very wide audience.

Let me first introduce the terms that I have almost never heard spoken among my peers on the IS side. Ethnography is, basically, the study of human cultures, and ethnomethodology deals with the common sense understanding of the structure and organization of society. The parallels in this paper are mainly between ethnography/theory and ethnomethodology/method.

What these branches of sociology could bring to the table to help IS studies is probably the most an “average” IS person could get out of this interesting philosophical essay. By claiming that “issues do not get resolved in the social sciences[; they] typically get resolved only to the satisfaction of the already converted,” the authors make the point that the social sciences themselves cannot form a basis for interdisciplinarity, since “no sociological or psychological methods or methodologies will guarantee success in respect [to] design.” “The logic of explanatory social science is not the logic of design.” The authors, however, do not undermine the contributions of the social sciences at all, since they bring the concept of having different points of view to the table. Can the humanities help IS design at all? Or not?

Reviewer:  Goran Trajkovski Review #: CR130912 (0509-1063)
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