Emancipation in cross-cultural IS research: The fine line between relativism and dictatorship of the intellectual [Book Review]

Ethics and Information Technology 8 (3):97-108 (2006)
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Abstract

Critical research is becoming increasingly accepted as a valid approach to research in information systems. It is deemed to be particularly suitable for situations where researchers want to address conspicuous injustice, such as in areas of development or the digital divide. Critical research in information systems (CRIS), I will argue, is a possible approach to some of the ethical problems arising in the context of information and communication technology (ICT). It can be sensitive to the question of culture and therefore suitable for researching cross-cultural ethical questions in ICT. It is often unclear, however, what exactly critical research stands for and to what extent critical approaches are applicable across cultural boundaries. This paper will address these problems by proposing a definition of critical research as focused on changing the status quo and aiming for emancipation. It will then look at the question whether different cultures are compatible and comparable and what the role of culture in research on information systems is. The paper will then return to the question whether the critical intention to emancipate and empower humans is an expression of cultural imperialism or whether there are valid ways of promoting emancipation across cultural divides

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Bernd Stahl
Westfälische Wilhelms Universität, Münster