Digital library of construction informatics
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Paper w78-1996-133:
Research techniques in construction information technology

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Crook D, Rooke J, Seymour D

Research techniques in construction information technology

Abstract: An important strategic issue in the use of IT by construction organisations is its use as an enabling technology for re-engineering the construction process. An examination of research reveals a tendency in IT research to adopt a mechanical systems view of an organisation’s activities: the organisation is treated as a complex of ‘black box’ processes or sub-systems linked by information flows. It is suggested that although this may be necessary for the production of a computer model, a detailed study of the empirical world, which the model is intended to represent, is a prior requisite if the system designed is to meet its purposes.We argue that the current assumptions made in construction IT research characterise a dominant ‘rationalist’ research paradigm. The main feature of this paradigm is belief in the objective reality of information or data: this has the effect of excluding from consideration the meaning or semantic content of information. A consequence is that the processes which are the interpretive context for information and data are ignored as matters for study. Information requirements within the system are treated as unproblematic, and do not seem to be adequately addressed by researchers within this paradigm.We suggest that research where an insufficient examination of the empirical world is undertaken misrepresents the nature of the processes under study. It also highlights the limitations of a positivistic approach to research. We note the emergence of ‘soft systems methodologies’ as an attempt to address these issues, and a call within the construction IT research community to recognise their importance, albeit one which may as yet have gone unheeded.In order to develop a more coherent research strategy for construction IT, we present an alternative, interpretive research paradigm which seeks to provide an appropriate footing on which to model socio-technical phenomena. We introduce the concept of participant observation-supported software development, which may help to remedy some of the problems identified.



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Series: w78:1996 (browse)
Cluster: papers of the same cluster (result of machine made clusters)
Class: class.social (0.022904) class.strategies (0.019865) class.communication (0.008767)
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Permission to reproduce these papers has been graciously provided by the University of Ljubljana. The assistance of the editor, Prof. Ziga Turk, is gratefully appreciated.


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