Building theory in the sciences of the artificial

  • Gregor S
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This essay extends Simon’s arguments in the Sciences of the Artificial to a critical examination of how theorizing in Information Technology disciplines should occur. The essay is framed around a number of fundamental questions that relate theorizing in the artificial sciences to the traditions of the philosophy of science. Theorizing in the artificial sciences is contrasted with theorizing in other branches of science and the applicability of the scientific method is questioned. The paper argues that theorizing should be considered in a holistic manner that links two modes of theorizing: an interior mode with the how of artifact construction studied and an exterior mode with the what of existing artifacts studied. Unlike some representations in the design science movement the paper argues that the study of artifacts once constructed can not be passed back uncritically to the methods of traditional science. Seven principles for creating knowledge in IT disciplines are derived: (i) artifact system centrality; (ii) artifact purposefulness; (iii) need for design theory; (iv) induction and abduction in theory building; (v) artifact construction as theory building; (vi) interior and exterior modes for theorizing; and (viii) issues with generality. The implicit claim is that consideration of these principles will improve knowledge creation and theorizing in design disciplines, for both design science researchers and also for researchers using more traditional methods. Further, attention to these principles should lead to the creation of more useful and relevant knowledge.

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  • Shirley Gregor

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