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Information Systems Research Methods: exploring the implications of Hannah Arendt’s analysis of the human condition

Brown, A. (2018). Information Systems Research Methods: exploring the implications of Hannah Arendt’s analysis of the human condition. Paper presented at the 17th European Conference on Research Methodology for Business and Management Studies - ECRM 2018, 12-13 Jul 2018, Rome, Italy.


In ‘The Human Condition’ (1958) Hannah Arendt presents a picture of what it is to be human based on the activities that we humans undertake. She distinguishes three forms of activity fundamental to our lives –labor, work and action. In her view the western intellectual tradition hasfailed to take proper account of the distinctions between the three activities. She considers that this way of categorising human actions is important to understanding the way that modern life has developed and seeks to describe each one as fully as possible.

Labor refers to the actions required to meet the unceasing need to satisfy our bodily needs. Work includes all those activities by which physical products are produced. It is through work that man (homo faber) transforms raw materials into tools and creates the human world we live in. However it is the third type of activity –action (vita activa) which promises to shine a different light on both the way organisations make use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT)and the role current research methods play in developing our understanding of the potential value to be obtained by organisations from this technology. This paper presents Arendt’s analysis of these three human activities and then explores the implications for business research methods –in particular those applied within the Information Systems discipline(IS)

Publication Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Publisher Keywords: Hannah Arendt, human activities, ICT artefact, IS discipline research methods, organisation’s use of Information and Communications Technology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
Z Bibliography. Library Science. Information Resources > ZA Information resources
Departments: Bayes Business School > Management
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