Information Systems (IS) and Human Computer Interaction (HCI)–including Computer-Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW)–address the development and adoption of computing systems by organizations, individuals, and teams. While each has its own emphasis, the timelines for adopting qualitative and critical research differ dramatically. IS used both in the late 1980s, but critical theory appeared in HCI only in 2000. Using a hermeneutic literature review, the paper traces these histories; it applies academic cultures theory as an explanatory framework. Institutional factors include epistemic bases of source disciplines, number and centrality of publication outlets, and political and geographic contexts. Key innovations in IS are covered in detail. The rise of platformization drives the fields toward a common scope of study with an imperative to address societal issues that emerge at scale.
Qualitative and Critical Research in Information Systems and Human Computer Interaction explores the history and adoption of qualitative and critical research in Information Systems (IS) and contrasts it with the growth of similar methods/theories in Human Computer Interaction (HCI) and, to a lesser, extent Computer Supported Collaborative Work (CSCW). The supposition behind the comparison was that the areas overlap in subject matter and would overlap in methods and authors. However, marked differences were observed in the structure of publications, conferences, and on social media that led to questions about the extent to which the fields shared a common framework.
The authors find that the history of each discipline reflects institutional factors that affected the respective timelines for the use of these approaches. This leads them to consider a sociological epistemic framework, which explains the differences quite well. It also supports characterizations of the culture of IS made by members, as having open paradigm and high collegiality, described as an adhocracy. The authors propose that qualitative and critical research developed interdependently in IS. Aside from institutional factors, a further difference in uptake of methods and critical framework comes from the US/Europe divide in research traditions and the political/epistemic climates affecting research in the respective regions. Research from beyond the transatlantic traditions postdates the developments covered here but is touched on at the end of the monograph.
The primary goal of Qualitative and Critical Research in Information Systems and Human Computer Interaction is to better understand the ways the IS research community differentiates itself into diverse constituencies, and how these constituencies interact in the field's complex processes of knowledge creation and dissemination. Another goal is to create cross-disciplinary discussion and build on related work in the fields. This is important in the era of platforms with global reach, and the concurrent development of powerful AI and analytics capabilities that both intrude on daily life and try to emulate human intelligence.