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Dangers inherent in the use of techniques: identifying framing influences

Carl Adams (Department of Information Systems, University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth, UK)
David Avison (ESSEC Business School, SID, Cergy‐Pontoise, France)

Information Technology & People

ISSN: 0959-3845

Article publication date: 1 June 2003


The literature about the development of information systems tends to concentrate on methodologies, techniques and tools. There is significant published research about the potential negative aspects of using methodologies and tools (along with that discussing their potential benefits). Techniques, on the other hand, are seen largely as benign, very often as simple aids to help carry out a task, and are used in many methodologies. They might be seen as supporting the collection, collation, analysis, representation or communication of information about system requirements and attributes (or a combination of these). However, it is argued in this paper that techniques also have negative aspects and there are as many dangers in their use as in using methodologies and tools. In particular, techniques may restrict understanding by framing the ways of thinking about the problem situation. In other words, people’s understanding of a problem can be profoundly influenced by how the problem is presented to them by the technique. Different development techniques can represent the same problem situation differently, and the way in which it is represented has considerable potential for influencing problem understanding and resultant decision making. Drawing on the cognitive psychology literature enables one to show how specific visual and linguistic characteristics of techniques may influence problem understanding. In addition, examining the taken‐for‐granted paradigm of a particular technique provides a further dimension influencing problem understanding. This knowledge of visual/language and paradigm attributes is applied to over 80 techniques used to a greater or lesser extent in IS development, indicating how different types of technique are likely to influence problem cognition. This serves two purposes. First, it exposes potential biases of a particular technique and makes users aware of the potential dangers. Second, the overall categorization may provide guidance to users in selecting appropriate techniques and combinations of techniques to help reduce any negative framing influences, provide a more holistic view of a problem situation and support a more appropriate problem‐learning environment.



Adams, C. and Avison, D. (2003), "Dangers inherent in the use of techniques: identifying framing influences", Information Technology & People, Vol. 16 No. 2, pp. 203-234.




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