Sociomateriality of Digital Technologies in Collaborative Decision-Making Counter-Terrorism Contexts

16 Pages Posted: 4 Jun 2018

Date Written: March 24, 2018


The notion of sociomateriality is deeply rooted in attempts to understand the ontological nature and role of digital technologies (ICTs) in human systems. Prior research, particularly in the Information Systems (IS) discipline, recognizes the relational perspective of such efforts. From a meta-synthesis of literature and the application of Soft Systems Methodology (SSM), this study sought to explicate the sociomaterial nature of digital technologies in collaborative decision-making within the context of counter-terrorism as a ‘wicked’ problem. Throughout the meta-synthesis, what comes to the fore is the perfunctory engagement of computing disciplines with digital technologies as a critical artifact in structuring of the CDM problem in ‘wicked’ contexts. However, insight from further analysis pinpoint discourses reifying the relational ontology of digital technologies in human systems, which are firmly entrenched in various disciplines. The resurgent interest in the sociomateriality of digital technologies is compelling and likely to provide a “new theatre”, providing both scholars and practitioners the opportunity to better structure digitally-enabled complex and wicked situations. Three insights were plausible from the meta-synthesis. First, from a methodological perspective, soft Operations Research (OR) approaches such as SSM can undergird structuring of wicked problems such as CDM within counter-terrorism contexts. The second insight directly calls for theorizing the sociomaterial nature of IS-related ‘wicked’ problems by considering the affordances of digital technologies. In the case of CDM, democratizing affordances of digital technologies are fundamental in exposing the extant power structures in collaborative networks. The third inference elevates the metaphor of mutual coupling of digital technologies with other multi-actors in CDM. While these propositions are tentative due to the limits of a meta-synthesis approach, they provide a foundation to inform further inquiry for legitimizing sociomateriality of digital technology in the practice of CDM within ‘wicked’ counter-terrorism contexts.

Keywords: Collaborative Decision Making, Digital Technologies, Soft Systems Methodology, Terrorism, Counter-Terrorism, Sociomateriality

JEL Classification: C44, C89, D74, D89

Suggested Citation

Ochara, Nixon Muganda and Odhiambo, Nancy Achieng, Sociomateriality of Digital Technologies in Collaborative Decision-Making Counter-Terrorism Contexts (March 24, 2018). Available at SSRN: or

Nixon Muganda Ochara (Contact Author)

University of Venda ( email )

Thohoyandou, Limpopo 0950
South Africa

Nancy Achieng Odhiambo

University of Venda ( email )

Private Bag X5050
Thohoyandou, Limpopo Province 0950
South Africa

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