This post contains a link to a PDF working paper that uses metaphor analysis on a collection of journal papers to examine just how diverse research within the Information Systems field actually is. It finds that the IS field is actually not very diverse at all from this perspective, which is somewhat contradictory to what is accepted by most IS folk.

The paper treats research as a cognitive process. A process that is constrained/influenced by the concepts we have of the world and the objects we study in our research. Our understandings of these concepts are very often unquestioned. The paper uses metaphor analysis to uncover what understandings IS researchers (writing in one of the IS fields premier journals) have of the concept of the “organisation”.

Work in organisational science has identified three main metaphors used of the organisation. They are:

  1. Organisation as a machine
  2. Organisation as an organism
  3. Organisation as a culture

It finds that the “organisation as a machine” metaphor is by far the most used and the most detailed. Followed a long way behind but “organisation as an organism”. “Organisation as a culture” is almost non-existent.

Within learning and teaching at universities I’m increasingly seeing a lot of this same bias. Much of the management, leadership and “quality” assurance stuff I see in higher education has a very strong assumption of the machine metaphor. A metaphor of questionable use in any group of human beings, let alone a university and especially around the act of learning and teaching.

With this fundamental assumption, I’m not surprised that much of what is proposed to improve learning and teaching fails.