Publication 8029

Beeson I. A. (2001) Implications of the theory of autopoiesis for the discipline and practice of information systems. In: Russo N. L. F. B. & DeGross J. I. (eds.) Realigning research and practice in information systems development. Kluwer/IFIP, Norwell MA: 317–332. Fulltext at
The theory of autopoiesis, developed in biology by Maturana and Varela, deprives information of any significant role in self-producing systems, because such systems are organizationally closed. After exploring the rejection of the notion of information, and laying out the main tenets of the theory, this paper considers some of the implications of the theoretical position for the discipline and practice of information systems (IS). The chief consequence is to shift focus from abstraction, representation, and design toward cooperation and use. The paper goes on to discuss different approaches to applying the theory of autopoiesis in IS. Some benefit might, for instance, be had from using the ideas as metaphors. The role of information is seen to be restored in Luhmann’s development of an autopoietic theory for social systems. A more radical use of the theory in IS would be to develop the basic ontology proposed by Maturana and Varela. A start on this is made from a phenomenological perspective.

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