Technology, the future and us

Authored by: Tadhg Nagle

The Routledge Companion to Accounting Information Systems

Print publication date:  December  2017
Online publication date:  December  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138125865
eBook ISBN: 9781315647210
Adobe ISBN:


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The conceptualisation of Information Systems (IS) as being an integration of people, process and technology has been around for over 50 years, 1 yet from personal experience with organisational engagements the embedded assumption of IS equals technology is still ingrained in their fundamental conceptualisation of the domain. In fact, academics can have similar issues, as I have seen the simple request to define IS create quite a stir in an IS viva voce. However, the narrow technological view of IS serves only to make the use and exploitation of systems more difficult as it overemphasises the importance of technology over the human factor. This oversight precipitates a failure to recognise that technology will always do what its told (follow its programme) whereas people rarely do. In fact, the irrationality of human beings is becoming more understood in the context of areas such as economics (Kahneman, 2011), marketing (Ariely, 2008) and even sports (Peters, 2013). Most notably, the work of Daniel Kahneman (which won him the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences) detailed a number of cognitive biases that leads to irrational decision-making. While his work was originally applied in economics, it can also be applied in the area of IS. For instance, biases such as risk and loss aversion, the endowment effect, status quo bias and the paradox of choice all impact on our decision-making capability when it comes to information systems. As a result, it can be argued that the notion of overlooking people in IS discussions will result in a limited output. Furthermore, taking direction from socio-technical theories such as Adaptive Structuration Theory (Desanctis and Poole, 1994), this discussion aligns with the notion that technology shapes us as much as we shape technology. Adaptive Structuration Theory also criticises the techno-centric view of technology use and emphasises the social aspects. For instance, it denotes that people/groups using technology dynamically create perceptions about the role and utility of the technology, and how it can be applied to their activities. While these perceptions can vary widely they strongly influence the way technology is used.

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