Wednesday, 16 May 2007
The End of Information Systems
The End of Information Systems or How A Technology Became So Successful That It Defied All Boundaries.
An act in a zillion parts.
The worlwide academic Information Systems community was established, so the story goes, by a relatively few far-sighted individuals. They sensed a transformation in the making. They were right. But no-one foresaw the worldwide reverberation, the shift, that followed.
In my opinion, Information Systems (IS) has struggled for purchase in the "real world" of Information Technology, application and organizational development. I always thought that odd. That said, I'd quickly concede that the picture is uneven and that great purchase was made by a few, especially Americans. I'd also concede that my view is personal and partial. Others exercised their academic right to not care. Theirs was to critique and reflect, not affect.
Nonetheless, on numerous occasions I felt frustrated to stand in the offices of CIOs, IT specialists, Directors, CEOs and managers, and see not even a single IS book, not a single paper, on the shelf. But mine is a delicate position. An argument of irrelevance does not necessarily follow from what I am saying. It is an argument of proximity, connection, aspiration and, most of all, method.
And anyway, maybe now is different. Maybe now, the petrol has leaked from the cannister. The socio-technical context that gave birth to IS is much changed. For the base technology is so successful, so consequential, that to study it further we'd need to rethink Information Systems as Social Systems. It would become a study of society itself.
Here are some big ideas:-
1. Social Media .... its about information, right? Wrong. It is just people, about you.
2. Athena's Camp: Information Warfare .... e.g. The Estonia Question
3. Open source: to labour for love. Although widely understood and researched, the mainstream media has still not seen this for what it is.
4. Strategy ...the Entertainment and Media Industries (and all industries dependent upon digital exchange).
5. The Blessed Unrest.... The Long Now.
6. Bureaucracy .... unassailable? We will see. We will see soon. For the bureau, the pen, and the form were the technologies of bureaucracy. With the mobile, the network and the application at our disposal, isn't it time for a rethink? Why write a report when you can put 5 minutes to camera? Why sit next to your grumpy old colleagues when you could be at home, or in Starbucks, or on the beach? Get ready for an age of microcasting (using the skills of media production within corporations and small social networks). Get ready for Media Intensive Enterprise ... as good as Enterprise 2.0 is, it doesn't go far enough.
7. New orders of order ...
8. Possessed and expressed identity... media and the self.
9. And then the Cinderella of the academic world, Media Studies, finds itself in a new gravity ... Once described by Chris Woodhead as "a one way ticket to the dole queue", understanding media is suddenly consequential. It is consequential to the new media industries. It is consequential to new citizenship. It is consequential to corporate life. It meshes with IS.
10. "Midwives to the emerging world" ... rethinking government ... rethinking human cognition.
11. Globalisation ... mega-corporations ... a new globally mobile super-middle class (e.g. you, MBA studenci). Nationality itself might be rethought ... is it a system for excluding people from things, a landmass (dear old Blighty), or a value system .. a reverberation (e.g. celtic values, Irishness). Meanwhile, corporate brands become symbols of our contested space.
12. Anna Eagin.
13. Shift happens.
Once, IT was the strange technology in the cellar. Once, IS was centred on the niche study of this strange technology in context. Now, the strange technology is just about in everything. So, the end of Information Systems will be because cross-pollination with other schools of thought, other groups, is more exciting than going it alone. It cannot contain, it cannot patrol its own boundaries. The end of Information Systems is its development as a portal, a view cast across social change, an access point to heterogeneous theory. The end of Information Systems is the beginning of much else. It becomes, perversely, the most exciting chapter in its short history.
I think, hope, expect, we'll see some exciting innovations in MBS IS. Onwards.
(The photo is by Paul Carruthers and is reproduced, quite appropriately, without permission).