Interpretive accounts and fairy tales: a critical polemic against the empiricist bias in interpretive IS research
In 1995, Geoff Walsham wrote one of the most important and most widely cited papers on interpretivism in information systems (IS). Walsham’s paper, along with his further work, represents a cornerstone of the discourse surrounding interpretive research. It has set the tone for further publications in the area and has more recently been followed up by a detailed practical account of how to undertake interpretive research by the same author. Using Walsham’s position as a starting point, the present paper questions some basic assumptions of interpretivism. Drawing on the philosophical background of interpretivism in hermeneutics and phenomenology, the paper questions the status of empirical research in the interpretivist tradition. Using quality criteria of different research streams related to interpretivism, the paper compares the role of empirical data in different types of research accounts with fairy tales, noting that interpretive IS research shares at least as many quality features with fairy tales as with positivist narratives. The paper concludes by discussing which consequences this position has for interpretive and other research in IS.
Citation : Stahl, B. (2014) Interpretive accounts and fairy tales: a critical polemic against the empiricist bias in interpretive IS research, European Journal of Information Systems, 23 (1), pp. 1-11
ISSN : 0960-085X
Research Group : Centre for Computing and Social Responsibility
Research Institute : Centre for Computing and Social Responsibility (CCSR)