Phenomenological perspectives in IS: lessons learnt from Claudio Cibbora

Peter Bednar, Christine Welch

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


In the course of his life’s work, Claudio Ciborra addressed many interesting and complex problem areas of information systems, from management of corporate information infrastructures to organizational learning. However, a unifying theme which permeated his work was an emphasis on recognizing ‘users’ as real human beings, not idealised types. He considered people, leading real, every-day lives; not lived according to a plan, but through processes of sense making and muddling through, influenced by emotions. He pointed out that dependence on established methodologies, tools, and techniques could blind developers to human problems and issues, and he highlighted the inadequacy of attempts to address both social and technical domains within the same approach. Primarily because of his focus on real people, the authors of this paper have often turned to Ciborra’s work, not only as a source of authority, but, more subtly, as an inspiration to develop our own thinking about the human beings at the heart of any problem space we may consider. In this paper, the authors wish to develop thinking with a focus on systems as emergent properties of individuals interacting within group situations. Like Claudio Ciborra, we aspire to include active application of philosophical perspectives in our analytical inquiries, and not merely to use them as frameworks to explore and illuminate underlying assumptions or conclusions. Ciborra was one of the researchers in whose work we could recognize efforts to escape shackles represented by interpretations of socio-technical thinking. We attempt to address a similar challenge by highlighting relevant systems analysis. Our purpose is to focus on individual uniqueness as a key to exploring organizational uniqueness and practice. In this paper we offer a taxonomy of information systems analysis, illustrating a distinction between approaches attempting to apply philosophy in their use of methods, and not only in the development of methods for use.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2006
EventThe 3rd conference of italian chapter of the association for information systems: Information systems and people, implementing information technology in the workplace - Milan, Italy
Duration: 26 Oct 200627 Oct 2006


ConferenceThe 3rd conference of italian chapter of the association for information systems


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