Beyond risk and boredom: reflections on Claudio Ciborra and sociology

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Beyond risk and boredom: reflections on Claudio Ciborra and sociology Jeff Shantz1 1

York University, Toronto, Canada.

Correspondence: Jeff Shantz, York University, Toronto, Canada. E-mail: [email protected]

European Journal of Information Systems (2005) 14, 510–512. doi:10.1057/palgrave.ejis.3000564

Received: 10 August 2005 Revised: 21 September 2005 Accepted: 28 September 2005

From my perspective as a sociologist there are far too few artists in sociology today, those who combine an innovative vision with an exhilarating voice. With the loss of Claudio Ciborra that number has diminished. Readers of this journal may be somewhat surprised that I appreciate Ciborra largely as a sociological innovator. Even more surprised may be sociologists who, avoiding the literature on information systems (IS), have until now missed out on the sociological pleasures of Ciborra’s writings. Yet in my view Ciborra’s writings were truly sociological, in the best sense of the term, as exemplified in C Wright Mill’s call for sociologists to address connections between personal troubles and public issues. While Ciborra’s contributions may not yet be widely appreciated in the discipline, he has set the stage for creatively engaged and challenging 21 century sociology. In his writings on information systems and risk management, Ciborra always called on theorists and practitioners to pay close attention to the sociological and cultural dimensions of analysis. In his view ‘the IS literature on risk has not been particularly innovative or rich in scope’ (2004, p. 17). Against the limits of economic and technological explanations, Ciborra spoke of ‘the need to invoke sociological perspectives on risk and modernity’ (2004, p. 12). His own work always engaged with the insights of sociologists of modernity such as Ulrich Beck, Scott Lash, Anthony Giddens and Bruno Latour. He was also informed by sociologists of regulation such as Mitchell Dean. At the same time, Ciborra offers the beginnings of a sociology that goes beyond these established schools of sociological thought. Ciborra’s discussions of risk and risk management always include a social (and psychological) dimension which focuses on questions as ‘risk for whom?’ and the attitudes towards risk of different social (and economic) agents. As someone teaching the sociology of formal organizations and organizational theory I have had the benefit of learning from Ciborra and sharing with my students his insights in those areas while also appreciating his contributions to sociology more broadly. In what follows, I hope to sketch briefly some of Ciborra’s contributions to sociological thought. I encourage my fellow sociologists to take up the threads of these initiatives and to meet the challenges Ciborra’s works open up for us. It is certainly a testimony to the vitality of Ciborra’s work that, from the foundation of his own specific research he has made such valuable contribution across disciplines. I hope that this piece encourages sociologists to read Ciborra’s works as well as encouraging

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