Designing Information Systems : A pragmatic account

Abstract: Information technology (IT) plays an increasingly important role for individuals, organizations, markets, and society as a whole. IT systems are artefacts (human made objects) designed for various purposes. Given the multiple-purpose characteristics of computers, such artefacts may, for example, support workflows, perform advanced calculations, support human communication and socialization, enable delivery of services and digital products, facilitate learning, or simply entertain. The diverging application areas for IT present a challenge to designers who, as a consequence, have to address increasingly divergent design situations. There have been numerous arguments suggesting that the IT artefact has been 'taken for granted', and needs to be understood and conceptualized better within information systems (IS) research. This thesis is based on the pragmatist notion that one important value of IT resides in its potential to support human collaboration. Such a belief has implications for the development of (1) knowledge aimed for action, change and improvement; (2) knowledge about actions, activities and practices; and (3) knowledge through action, experimentation and exploration. A view of the IT artefact is outlined, showing it as part of a social and technological context. IT artefact design is explained in relation to the induction of social change. The notion of stakeholder-centric design is advocated, along with practical theory to promote a situated understanding of use qualities and design ideals. A set of meta-theoretical implications for design-oriented IS research is proposed. The research process consisted of five inquiries into different IT-reliant social contexts. In the first four inquiries, social and communicative qualities of IT artefacts were assessed, governed primarily by Dewey's notion of inquiry as a theory of knowledge. The fifth inquiry was a large-scale action research project, including interventions into the social setting, and the design and implementation of a new IT artefact into that setting.