When investigating the use of information systems within organizations, researchers inevitably make decisions relating to the classification, or ‘stratification’, of information technology users. Most commonly, users are stratified along functional boundaries or by their membership in various communities of practice. It is important to note, however, that any such method of social stratification necessarily focuses the attention of a researcher on certain issues while unavoidably downplaying or neglecting other concerns. Individuals whose interests, values or identification align with these neglected issues may be inadvertently marginalized by the research approach. This observation suggests a range of ethical concerns related to the methods of social stratification used by researchers. In this paper, we argue that the method by which information systems researchers stratify organizational actors in their research has significant ethical implications. We propose a framework that maps stratification strategies that researchers bring to their analyses using Weber’s theory of stratification and the dimensions of class, status and party, in conjunction with his distinction between heterogeneous and homogenous forms of work. We offer illustrative theoretical lenses for each category in the framework and demonstrate how each lens favours certain issues and potentially neglects others.
Department, Program, or Center
Information System Journal, vol. 21, p. 357-382, 2011
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