This contribution to the SIGPHIL workshop on reconciling the social and technical in IS research proposes a sociotechnical approach that addresses many issues related to the long-standing duality of the social/human versus the technical/material. It shows that a sociotechnical approach based on work system concepts 1) highlights and potentially bypasses extremely basic ontological stumbling blocks in IS research, 2) incorporates many of the topics and concerns of the original sociotechnical school, 3) illuminates issues related to the duality of the social/human versus the technical/material, and 4) addresses these topics using concepts and terminology that are much easier to understand than the highly sophisticated concepts in the emerging discourse about sociomateriality. While not starting with assumptions such as the constitutive entanglement of people, technologies, and organizations, this approach addresses some of the topics in the sociomateriality discourse and leads to interpretations that may be useful to that discourse as it continues to unfold. After illustrating the IS discipline's pervasive problem of accepting fundamentally different meanings for the same concepts, it shows that the work system framework, work system life cycle model, and a metamodel underlying the work system framework provide a useful scaffolding for examining and interpreting the duality of social/human versus technical/material in real world situations.
Alter, Steven, "Reconciling the Social/Human and Technical/Material in IS Research without Trying too Hard" (2011). Business Analytics and Information Systems. 29.