A Multi-paradigmatic Approach

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Mackrell, Dale
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Montreal Canada


The research was ontological with a practical focus and sought to contribute to an understanding of how agricultural decision support systems (DSS) entered into women's roles as farm partners on Australian family cotton farms. The case study focused on Australian women cotton growers on family farms in the Australian states of south east Queensland and northern New South Wales. Data collection was predominantly through semi-structured interviews with 32 participants during one pilot study, two main field studies as well as telephone interviews, over a period of three years. The participants were cotton growers, and cotton industry professionals, such as DSS developers, rural extension officers, researchers and educators, rural experimental scientists, and agronomists and consultants, all of whom advise cotton growers. At a recent Australian information systems conference, as first author, I presented a paper which reflected on the development and use of the pluralist research approach in the study. The authors had initially approached the study from an exclusively interpretivist perspective, viewing women's use of DSS and their roles in cotton farm management as socially constructed. However, the farm women's perceptions of the DSS as immutable, the need for cotton growers to accommodate their practices to industry targets to gain maximum benefit, and the insistence by the women that they were team members alongside their farm partners, prompted both authors to consider whether more than one research approach might be necessary to understand this complex problem. As a consequence, the main theories adopted to inform the study were structuration theory by Giddens (1984), diffusion theory by Rogers (1995), and gender relations theory by Connell (2002). Since these theories are based on opposing paradigmatic assumptions, the paper considered the problem of incommensurability between paradigms in information systems research and the possible role of structuration theory in overcoming the objective-subjective dualism. Although the authors are sensitive to issues of research rigour, the main concern of the study was in providing a relevant and useful interpretation of what was happening in the Australian cotton industry. The intention of the authors is to submit the paper to a quality journal for review. However, the existing version of the paper needs to be re-worked. The IFIP WG 8.2 workshop is a fitting forum in which to discuss the issues of theoretical pluralism and to offer suggestions as to how the paper can be progressed further.

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Organizations and Society in Information Systems OASIS Workshop

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