Bjørn Erik Munkvold


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Bjørn Erik Munkvold is Professor of Information Systems and Director of the PhD Programme in Information Systems at University of Agder, Norway. His main research interests include e-Collaboration and virtual work, organizational IT implementation and qualitative research methododology

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Bygstad, Bendik, Munkvold, Bjørn Erik (2007): The Significance of Member Validation in Qualitative Analysis: Experiences from a Longitud. In: HICSS 2007 - 40th Hawaii International International Conference on Systems Science 3-6 January, 2007, Waikoloa, Big Island, HI, USA. pp. 243.

Bajwa, Deepinder S., Lewis, L. Floyd, Pervan, Graham, Lai, Vincent, Munkvold, Bjørn Erik, Schwabe, Gerhard (2007): Organizational Assimilation of Collaborative Information Technologies: Global Comparisons. In: HICSS 2007 - 40th Hawaii International International Conference on Systems Science 3-6 January, 2007, Waikoloa, Big Island, HI, USA. pp. 41.

Weiseth, Per Einar, Munkvold, Bjørn Erik, Tvedte, Bjorn, Larsen, Sjur (2006): The wheel of collaboration tools: a typology for analysis within a holistic framework. In: Proceedings of ACM CSCW06 Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work , 2006, . pp. 239-248.

Päivärinta, Tero, Munkvold, Bjørn Erik (2005): Enterprise Content Management: An Integrated Perspective on Information Management. In: HICSS 2005 - 38th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences 3-6 January, 2005, Big Island, HI, USA.

Anson, Rob, Munkvold, Bjørn Erik (2004): Beyond Face-to-Face: A Field Study of Electronic Meetings in Different Time and Place Mode. In Journal of Organizational Computing and Electronic Commerce, 14 (2) pp. 127-152.

Khazanchi, Deepak, Munkvold, Bjørn Erik (2003): On the Rhetoric and Relevance of IS Research Paradigms: A Conceptual Framework and Some Pr. In: HICSS 2003 , 2003, . pp. 252.

Munkvold, Bjørn Erik, Anson, Robert (2001): Organizational adoption and diffusion of electronic meeting systems: a case study. In: Ellis, Clarence, Zigurs, Ilze (eds.) Proceedings of the International ACM SIGGROUP Conference on Supporting Group Work 2001 September 30 - October 3, 2001, Boulder, Colorado, USA. pp. 279-287.

Munkvold, Bjørn Erik (1998): Adoption and Diffusion of Collaborative Technology in Interorganizational Networks. In: HICSS 1998 , 1998, . pp. 424-433.

Munkvold, Bjørn Erik

33.9 Commentary by Bjørn Erik Munkvold

Ned Kock's chapter offers an insightful introduction to the concept of Action Research and how this could be related to the field of HCI. The chapter reflects Ned's broad experience with this type of research, and will be useful to anyone looking for an overview of the characteristics and challenges of applying this research approach in the context of HCI. The chapter also points to sources for learning more about the topic. In this brief commentary I will address some issues from the chapter that I think could be elaborated more, to bring out the key characteristics of Action Research as well as some nuances in our understanding of this.

Ned's point of departure for the chapter is that to understand Action Research requires being able to differentiate this from other types of research. As presented in the chapter, a focus on action and practice are key elements of action research projects. However, by themselves these elements are necessary but not sufficient foci for a study to be classified as action research. For example, much of the research on IT-enabled change in organizations (conducted as case studies or surveys) focuses on changes to practice through technology-related actions. Yet, this research will typically not be classified as action research, as long as the researcher role is merely that of an observer. Thus, the role of the researcher(s) is a key distinguishing element in Action Research, in that an 'action researcher' would normally be closely involved in specifying and bringing about the targeted change. This is done in close collaboration with the 'client', bringing me to the next point of the collaborative nature of Action Research. As specified in the Action Research cycle of Susman and Evered (1978) in the chapter, the steps in the process are conducted in collaboration between the research and the client. Even in the final stage of specifying learning, while the researcher may be responsible also this step would normally involve mutual learning between the researcher and clients/practitioners. The focus of joint collaboration in the research process is thus a key distinguishing feature of Action Research, emphasized in the early literature defining this research (e.g. Rapoport, 1970; Susman and Evered, 1978). This does not go against what is presented in the chapter, but intends to emphasize more the important role of the researcher as 'change agent' and the collaborative model of action research.

Related to the application of action research in HCI, the chapter raises an issue of a possible mismatch between the positivist epistemology of HCI and the non-positivist nature of action research. The argument made is that since action research could also be done in a positivist manner, it should be 'acceptable' for the HCI community. My view on this issue is somewhat different. First, as discussed by Carol (2009), the HCI community today is very broad and from my European/Scandinavian perspective I do not experience a similar strong dominance of the positivist perspective. The part of the HCI community focusing on participatory design here serves as an example. Second, I belong to those who regard the nature of Action Research to be based on an interpretivist perspective, finding it difficult to reconcile the engaged role of the action researcher with a positivist epistemology. This of course does not preclude combining qualitative and quantitative methods, as advocated in the chapter. Thus, rather than giving Action Research a positivist framing, I would argue that this research approach should be made attractive to the HCI community on its merits of increased relevance through building and evaluating IT artifacts in close interaction with practice.

An increasing focus on action research could also be seen as a response to Van de Ven's (2007) call for engaged scholarship, defined as "a participative form of research for obtaining the different perspectives of key stakeholders (researchers, users, clients, sponsors, and practitioners) in studying complex problems" (p. 9). Action Research has also been focused lately as part of the increasing interest in design science (Iivary, 2007), and the debate on similarities and differences between these two approaches. A recent contribution is the Action Design Research method suggested by Sein et al. (2010), that combines the design science focus of building innovative IT artifacts with the Action Research focus of learning from the intervention when applying the artifact for solving a problem in practice.

The chapter appendix addresses an important issue about the challenges of conducting doctoral research based on Action Research. The potential obstacles discussed resonate well with experiences discussed by Jesper Simonsen from his action research projects in the Scandinavian context (Simonsen, 2009). He suggests that some of these challenges of Action Research can be mitigated by only assigning the PhD student with specific parts of the Action Research project, and having the supervisor and fellow senior researchers co-participate in the project. In any case, Action Research projects will often be undertaken by a research team rather than a single researcher.

As pointed out in the chapter, Action Research offers a great potential for HCI research. This is exemplified by the strong tradition of Action Research in the Scandinavian IS community over the years (Mathiassen and Nielsen, 2008). In addition to improving business practices through IT, Action Research also holds promise as a basis for research on how to develop and apply technology to bring about positive change in important societal areas such as healthcare and environment.


  • Carroll, John M. (2009). Encyclopedia entry on Human Computer Interaction (HCI). Retrieved 13 July 2010 from
  • Iivari, Juhani (2007): A paradigmatic analysis of information systems as a design science. In Scandinavian Journal of Information Systems, 19 (2), pp. 39-64.
  • Mathiassen, Lars and Nielsen, Peter A. (2008): Engaged Scholarship in IS Research: The Scandinavian Case. In Scandinavian Journal of Information Systems, 20 (2), pp. 3-20.
  • Rapoport, Robert N. (1970): Three dilemmas of action research. Human Relations, 23, pp. 499-513.
  • Sein, Maung K., Henfridsson, Ola, Purao, Sandeep, Rossi, Matti and Lindgren, Rikard (2010): Action Design Research. Forthcoming in MIS Quarterly
  • Simonsen, Jesper (2010): A Concern for Engaged Scholarship: The Challenges for Action Research Projects. In Scandinavian Journal of Information Systems, 21 (2), pp. 111-128.
  • Susman, Gerald I and Evered, Roger D. (1978): An assessment of the scientific merits of action research. Administrative Sciences Quarterly, 23, pp. 582-603.
  • Van de Ven, Andrew H. (2007): Engaged Scholarship: A Guide for Organizational and Social Research, Oxford, Oxford University Press.