Critical Review

Critically evaluate the following two research papers:

·      Critical reflection in planning information systems: a contribution from critical systems thinking

·      Pluralist action research: a review of the information systems literature


 

Table of Contents

Table of Figures. 2

Table of Tables. 3

Introduction. 3

Announce the authors. 3

The titles. 3

Explain the topic of the text. 3

Blue corner. 3

Red corner. 4

Aim of the text. 5

The aim of the red corners text is: 5

The aim of the blue corner text is: 6

Main findings and key arguments. 7

Conclude with brief evaluation. 7

Summary. 7

Key points. 7

Red corner. 7

Blue corner. 7

Limited number of examples. 8

Explain the author’s purpose. 8

Explain how the text is organised. 8

Critique. 9

A balanced discussion and evaluation of strengths, weaknesses and notable features. 9

Notable features. 9

Based on specific criteria. 9

Supporting sources. 10

Conclusion. 10

Restate your overall opinion of the text. 10

Briefly present recommendations. 10

Bibliography. 10

 

Table of Figures

Figure 1 circle of Lewins' next step model 4

Figure 2 Eras of IS development. 5

Figure 3 Cyclical development. 5

Figure 4 Proposed model of intervention. 6

Figure 5 the summation of the Blue corner text. 7

Table of Tables

Table 1 Strengths and Weaknesses of the author’s ideas. 9

 

Introduction

Announce the authors

The authors of Pluralist action research: a review of the information systems literature, are: Mike Chiasson, Matt Germonprez & Lars Mathiassen. Who were, at the time of writing, from the following institutions: Lancaster University, University of Wisconsin and Georgia State University.

The author of: Critical reflection in planning information systems: a contribution from critical systems thinking is José-Rodrigo Córdoba, who is from the University of Hull.

The titles

Firstly we have, on the side of critical reflection: “Critical reflection in planning information systems: a contribution from critical systems thinking”, who for the purpose of this report shall be called the red corner, and secondly, on the side of pluralism: Pluralist action research: a review of the information systems literature, who for the purposes of this report shall be the blue corner.

Explain the topic of the text

Blue corner

Action Research: which is discussed in the blue corner, where according to no referenced sources, Kurt Lewin is considered to be “the founder of social psychology”. He apparently first coined the term “action Research” in 1944 and went on to publish the paper “Action Research and Minority Problems” whilst at MIT in 1946.

He has apparently described the term as: “a comparative research on the conditions and effects of various forms of social action and research leading to social action”.

From this we are to understand that: there is a lack of standards by which to measure progress, the lack of standards means that:

1.       Satisfaction is just a measure of temperament, and

2.       No learning can take place.

So for realist fact-finding and evaluation it becomes the pre-determination of any prerequisite for the basis of any learning. He doers how ever go to assert that: social science should not apply the same rigours standards as those involved in pure science.

Objectively, he splits the research into two general laws:

1.       Group life

2.       The diagnosis of a specific situation

Which he interrupts as:

·         Possible conditions, and

·         Possible results

He describes fact finding as having four functions:

·         Evaluate the action

·         It provides for the re-evaluation of the information know available

·         This facilitates the re-planning for the next stage

·         This provides feedback for the re-design of the original overall plan

Figure 1 circle of Lewins' next step model

This he describes as a “spiral”, this he hopes will lead to the development of more precise theories of social change.

He considers that: action, research and training, should be represented as a triangle, and linked together, so that there are no corners.

He asserts that today, which is more applicable now than then, that the lack of competent training in personnel is the hindrance to progress.

There is apparently as linkage between hypothetical conditions and hypothetical effects.

The interaction of both groups involved in intergroup relations has to be a two way function. Lewin felt even back then that we are one world. (Lewin, 1946)

Red corner

So in the red corner we have: Information systems planning in organisations, which apparently draws on the ideas of critical systems thinking, to develop a frame work which is focused using critical thinking by applying two systems theories: boundary critique and autopoiesis.

·         Boundary critiques enable critical reflections on values and assumptions about granularity through the application of pre-defined, agreed boundaries or lines of demarcation.

·         Autopoiesis: which prefers continuous dialogue, listening and mutual collaboration. Although the word itself means “self-creation”.

Aim of the text

The aim of the red corners text is:

That people should be included in the process before planning IS starts and a notional guide line of ethics to provide an outline boundary.

Two assumptions are made:

1.       IS should be considered as: social artefacts

2.       Ethics

Churchman felt that a boundary is an intellectual and inter-subjective construct in the formation of boundaries. This concept of sub-division of the “whole” system allows for the creations of bounded values, which become attractive to some – unattractive to others and is the frontrunner to marginalisation.

A distillation of the data gathered by the researchers in the arena of IS literature for the creation of both theoretical and practical knowledge.

It aims to offer a framework the aim of which is: inclusion and critical reflection. They offer two assumptions: IS planning is a social process and ethics. They support the view that the IS planning process is in “continuous” development.

Their framework proposes two ‘orientations’’:

1.       Distinction, and

2.       ‘Dialogue for improvement’

Which they augment with: continuous boundary critique.

Their work, based on their research, has led them to the definition of eras; see Figure 2 Eras of IS development.

Figure 2 Eras of IS development

They propose that IS, be considered as: continuous and emergent, see Figure 3 Cyclical development.

Figure 3 Cyclical development

Figure 4 Proposed model of intervention

The aim of the blue corner text is:

To propose the use of Action Research (AR) and apply it to IS, which the [the author] feels lends itself to pluralistic approaches for the facilitation of practical and theoretical knowledge generation.

(Habermas) felt that the world is multidimensional which includes: the material, the personnel and the social.

Researchers are advised to adopt a multiplicity of tools to support a movement strategy which supports appreciation then action.

The document the takes a stroll through: IS planning, Critical Systems Think, Boundary Critique and Autopoiesis. To develop two frameworks:

1.       Framework one

·         The research dominant

·         Problem-solving dominant

·         Interactive approaches

2.       Framework two

·         The dominant and sequential approaches to mixing AR with other research methods

·        

Figure 5 the summation of the Blue corner text

Main findings and key arguments

The red corner supports the idea that: there should be a methodological framework to support the process of information systems planning in organisations. (Córdoba, 2008)

The blue corner proposes: that AR lends itself strongly towards pluralist approaches, which facilitate the production of both theoretical and practical knowledge. (Chiasson, Germonprez, & Mathiassen, 2008)

Conclude with brief evaluation

Both documents are written by professionals in their fields, and they are extremely well read and thoroughly researched.

Summary

Key points

Red corner

Two assumptions are made:

1.       IS should be considered as: social artefacts

2.       Ethics

Their framework proposes two ‘orientations’’:

1.       Distinction, and

2.       ‘Dialogue for improvement’

Which they augment with: continuous boundary critique.

Blue corner

They propose that Action Research (AR) is used and apply it to IS.

The have developed two frameworks:

3.       Framework one

·         The research dominant

·         Problem-solving dominant

·         Interactive approaches

4.       Framework two

·         The dominant and sequential approaches to mixing AR with other research methods

Limited number of examples

Find it difficult where to pick to start, so little of the journal articles are theirs, in original terms. Most of it belongs to the et al brigade, and what original work they have produced becomes lost amongst their quotation of others. As an example:

“In research, as in practice, information systems (IS) researchers use specific approaches to generate knowledge in response to particular questions and problems. In doing so, they are confronted with a series of choices and information about particular approaches, and the knowledge that could arise from each. As a result, researchers may start with one approach, and while accepting the partial results it provides, run other research approaches sequentially, in parallel, and at different levels of analysis, in order to increase the understanding of a phenomenon (Mingers, 2001).”

This is taken from the opening paragraph of Pluralist action research: a review of the information systems literature.

The other author seems to also enjoy the work of others, as he too is unable to write an introductory paragraph without introducing others: “With increasing collaboration and new forms of networking (Castells, 1996), the use of IS can open new opportunities for communication and interaction.” (Córdoba, 2008)

Explain the author’s purpose

They have spent an enormous amount of time and imagination: researching, documenting and discussing their ideas; in an attempt to present, what, they feel is a valuable synopsis for that field of study.

Explain how the text is organised

Poorly, there is no document management or navigation – despite them being proposed leaders in the fields of information management. They do however use headings to, what: they feel are groups of coherent ideas together, with the introduction of paragraphs and an overly complicated sentence structure, which at times seems grammatically incorrect. There are diagrams, which they have developed to offer a visually simplified, (or complex), interpretation of the ideas developed in the text.

Critique

Both are apparently well round and carefully considered. They do however not demonstrate the simplicity of their ideas, and re-enforce this with the idea camps that they support. They do present the opportunity for further discussion and their ideas of gentle debate.

A balanced discussion and evaluation of strengths, weaknesses and notable features

Strengths

Weaknesses

Their arguments are, apparently, solid

They may have misunderstood the originators of the ideas that they wish to follow

They wish to engage in debate

There is a call for action and implementation, that exceeds their delays

The red corner propose that planning be limited to organisations

Does not take into account the unstructured nature of human involvement, nor allows for the inclusion of Nature

The Blue corner encourage collaboration

Breaks down over the questions of leadership

Collectively their ideas make sense

They are proposing different approaches to achieve a solution along a specific set of methodologies, not a hybrid solution of what is most practical

Table 1 Strengths and Weaknesses of the author’s ideas

Notable features

Blue corner

·         Action Research

·         A “pluralised” approach

·         To facilitate: practical and theoretical knowledge generation

Red corner

·         Propose that people be included in the process before planning begins

·         Information systems planning in organisations

·         Boundary critiques

·         Autopoiesis

·         IS should be considered as: social artefacts

·         Ethics

Based on specific criteria

An opinion that is not clouded or necessarily drawn into a debate on what should be considered as: two variations on a theme of planning.

The lack of knowledge and understanding of their carefully crafted: ideas, thoughts and words.

A lack of reading ability that would have enabled the consumption of all of their sources throughout the documents supporting their current presentation.

Supporting sources

Very few, I read Lewins’ ideas through and enjoyed unreferenced sources for: Critical Systems Thinking, Boundary Critique, Autopoiesis and problem solving.

Conclusion

Restate your overall opinion of the text.

It is all together to confusing; it seems to be aimed to cause confusion in the mind of the reader, the authors rarely write their own ideas, and when they do attempt some original thinking they want desperately to validate this with the support of others who may have produced work that they agree with.

It is apparently written in what may be considered as an “academic style”, but it does little to encourage the generation of new ideas, without the time available to read all of their referenced sources and the sources that they have used, until: you become able to find the few original thinkers that generated the ideas that they have attempted to develop and refine, or dismiss entirely with the support of other that disagree.

The documents appear well structured, although the PDF’s do not have a document structure to aid navigation.

Briefly present recommendations.

I am not well read enough to fully understand the drivel and nonsense that they are proposing is applied to what is a scientific processes: they are demanding that people be included in what realistically is a machine dimension. The purpose of which is to engage the people in the adoption of the aims, objectives and goals of, typically, a corporate organisation model.

It may be of value for them to take the opportunity to really understand what an Information System is in its’ generic form, which realistically be considered the system use or applied to turn data into information.

Despite their desire to apply some fascinating mathematical concepts, they do not appear to want to provide ideas beyond introducing the social sciences into what is a mathematical and engineering subject.

Bibliography

Chiasson, M., Germonprez, M., & Mathiassen, L. (2008, 03 10). Pluralist action research: a review of the information systems literature. Information Systems Journal, 19, 31-54.

Córdoba, J.-R. (2008). Critical reflection in planning information systems: a contribution from critical systems thinking. Information Systems Journal.

International Institute of Informatics and Systemics. (2012-2013). Special Track on Action Research and Action Learning. Retrieved 01 18, 2013, from International Institute of Informatics and Systemics: http://www.iiis2013.org/imcic/Website/AboutConfer-ARAL.asp?vc=34

Lewin, K. (1946). Action Research and Minority Problems. American Psychological Association, 9.