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Theorizing Materiality – Spring 2022 - ONLINE - 4 ECTS

Date and time

Monday 25 April 2022 at 09:00 to Thursday 12 May 2022 at 16:00

Registration Deadline

Monday 25 April 2022 at 09:00


Room TBA, Campus TBA, 2000 Frederiksberg Room TBA
Campus TBA
2000 Frederiksberg

Theorizing Materiality – Spring 2022 - ONLINE - 4 ECTS

Event Description

Guest professor Ulrike Schultze, Department of Digitalization, CBS

Course Coordinator
Professsor Michel Avital, Department of Digitalization, CBS

The week before the class sessions, each participant is expected to introduce him/herself to the class by posting a profile of the research project they wish to work on during the course. This project profile should include (i) a research motivation for the study, (ii) the anticipated research question, (iii) an overview of the proposed data collection and analysis methods, and (iv) the insights that are anticipated from the completed study.

Considering the course objectives, class preparation and class participation are essential. In preparation for each session, each student is expected to read at least the required articles and write a one-page summary of at least one of these required readings assigned for the session. Ideally, students should summarize the reading that has the most relevance to their respective research projects. The reading summaries for a given session need to be posted to the designated Discussion section in CANVAS before the start of the session during which the reading in question will be discussed.

The purpose of the reading summaries is to articulate a reading’s core arguments and apply them to the student’s own research project. It should address the following questions: (i) What is the reading’s core argument? (ii) What questions does this reading raise? (iii) What does this reading mean for my (student’s) research project?

During the last class session, students will present the research proposals that they have worked on throughout the course. This is an opportunity to gather feedback from peers and the instructor. The suggestions and ideas offered during this 10-minute presentation should be used to improve the students’ actual dissertation projects.

This seminar course explores the motivations behind the increasing interest in understanding the role that the materiality of bodies, spaces and things—especially technologies—play in social research and how materiality can be theorized more explicitly. The course is designed to familiarize doctoral students with current research that theorizes materiality, especially in the fields of organization studies and information systems. Considerable attention will be paid to ontological, epistemological and methodological issues related to conceptualizing the relationship between the social (e.g., discourse, norms, organizational structures) and the material aspect in everyday and work life. Theories through which sociomateriality is enacted (i.e., ANT, Agential Realism) will be discussed, as will critical realism.

In addition to exploring theories and methods that are currently used in research that explicitly theorizes materiality, this course also gives students the opportunity to develop their own research projects such that materiality plays a more prominent role in their theorizing. A key aim of the course is to prepare the theoretical and methodological foundations that will assist the participants in developing and writing their theses in ways that align with contemporary interests on the role of materiality in social and organizational life.

Course content
The course surveys a broad literature on materiality in the disciplines of organization studies and information systems in order to provide students with a grasp of the main motivations for and challenges with theorizing materiality explicitly in social research. Students thus have an opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of the conceptual turns associated with materiality research. Participants will also be exposed to the main theoretical strands for theorizing materiality and should thus be able to determine which is most appropriate for their own research project.

To make the learning in this course as immediately relevant as possible, each participant will be asked to identify an empirical research project—ideally related to their research—for which s/he will develop a proposal that theorizes materiality in the phenomenon of interest. Throughout the class sessions, participants will examine how the arguments, theories and concepts articulated in the readings might advance his/her own research proposal.

The course is designed as a sequence of 6 three-hour meetings spread across three weeks. Each session covers a theme related to theorizing materiality in organization and information systems research. The meetings are designed in a research seminar format, which includes guided discussions, mini-workshops, and teacher and student presentations. In addition to a critical and appreciative review of existing work, the seminar emphasizes constructive discussion aimed at helping students to design research that builds on and extends the current body of knowledge on the role of materiality in social life.

The course will run online using Zoom. Participants need to ensure that they are on a high-speed internet connection. They also commit for 100%s presence with face camera on, and active participation in discussions during the synchronous sessions.

Teaching style

Lecture plan
6 x three-hour bi-weekly sessions. All sessions from 13:00 - 16:00. 

Module 1 - Mon, 25 April 
Materiality Turn: Motivation, Evidence and Research Contributions

Module 2 - Thurs, 28 April 
Key Concepts and Philosophical Stances on Materiality Research

Module 3 - Mon, 2 May
Actor Network Theory

Module 4 - Thurs, 5 may
Agential Realism

Module 5 - Mon, 9 May
Critical Realism

Module 6 - Thurs, 12 May
Research Proposal Workshop

Learning objectives
At the end of the course, students should be able to:

▪ Articulate the perceived benefits of explicitly theorizing materiality in social research
▪ Identify key contributions that materiality research has made to social research
▪ Take a position on key disciplinary controversies and debates regarding materiality
▪ Identify and discuss the main theories associated with theorizing materiality explicitly
▪ Apply the theories and methods of materiality research in their own thesis projects
▪ Position their own thesis project vis-à-vis current research on materiality in social research

Exam Preparation
To assess each participant’s understanding of the topics covered in class, there will be a take-home exam that each student is expected to complete independently, without assistance from anybody. The exam will be posted on CANVAS during the last class session and students will have a week to answer the questions. Student responses are limited to 5 standard pages of text (and an unlimited number of optional appendices consisting of references, tables, graphs of diagrams). They must be submitted within a week of the course’s conclusion through the ‘Assignments’ section in CANVAS.

A Pass/Fail grade will be based on the timely submission and quality of the pre-course assignment, which include the project profile and five reading summaries uploaded to CANVAS. The quality of the oral presentation of the research proposal will also form part of the grade, as will the student’s response to the questions on the final exam.


Start date

End date




Course Literature
1. Materiality Turn
Session Focus
This session will focus on questions regarding the materiality turn in organization and information systems research. Specifically, we will explore the motivation for calls to theorize materiality explicitly, evidence that such a turn has been enacted, and the novel insights it has produced.

Required readings
Carlile, P. R., & Langley, A. (Eds.) (2013). How Matter Matters: Objects, Artifacts, and Materiality in Organization Studies (Vol. 3). Oxford University Press; Chapter 1.
Dameron, S., Lê, J. K., & LeBaron, C. (2015). “Materializing Strategy and Strategizing Material: Why Matter Matters”, British Journal of Management, 26(S1), S1-S12.
Leonardi, P. M., Nardi, B. A., & Kallinikos, J. (2012). Materiality and organizing: Social interaction in a technological world. Oxford University Press on Demand; Chapter 1.
Recommended readings
Dale, K. (2005). “Building a Social Materiality: Spatial and Embodied Politics in Organizational Control”. Organization, 12(5), 649-678.
de Vaujany, F. X., & Mitev, N. (2013). Materiality and space: organizations, artefacts and practices. Palgrave Macmillan.

2. Key Concepts and Philosophical Stances for Theorizing Materiality
Session Focus
This session will focus on the key concepts whose meanings and relationships need to be clarified when theorizing materiality. These include agency, materiality and sociality. Additionally, the philosophical stances that are available for theorizing materiality will be explored.

Required readings
Robichaud, D., & Cooren, F. (Eds.). (2013). Organization and organizing: Materiality, agency and discourse. Routledge. Chapter 1.
Latour, B. (2014). “Technical Does not Mean Material”, Journal of Ethnographic Theory, 4 (1): 507–510.
Schultze, U., van den Heuvel, G., and Niemimaa, M. (2020). „Enacting Accountability in IS Research after the Sociomaterial Turn(ing),” JAIS.
Recommended readings
Emirbayer, M. (1997). Manifesto for a relational sociology. American Journal of Sociology, 103(2), 281-317.
Orlikowski, W. J., & Scott, S. V. (2008). Sociomateriality: Challenging the Separation of Technology, Work and Organization. Annals of the Academy of Management, 2(1): 433-474.

Introna, L. D. (2013). “Epilogue: Performativity and the Becoming of Sociomaterial Assemblages” In de Vaujany, F.X. & Mitev, N. (Eds). Materiality and Space, Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan Press. (pp. 330-342).
Coole, D., & Frost, S. (Eds.) (2010). New Materialisms: Ontology, Agency, and Politics. Duke University Press.

3. Actor Network Theory
Session Focus
This session kicks off the introduction to key theories that are used to make materiality explicit in organizational and information systems research. Actor Network Theory (ANT), as the first of these theories to be adopted in organizational and IS research, will be reviewed first. We will identify ANT’s core concepts and methodological guidance, and analyze an empirical study that adopts ANT for its theoretical scaffold.

Required readings
Latour, B. (1996). “On Actor Network Theory – A few Clarifications,” Soziale Welt, 47, 369-381.
Callon, M. (1999). “Actor Network Theory-The Market Test,” The Sociological Review, 47( issue: 1_suppl), 181-195.
Ramiller, N. (2005). Applying the Sociology of Translation to a System Project in a Lagging Enterprise. JITTA, 7(1), pp. 51-76.
Recommended readings
Latour, B. (2007). “Can we Get our Materialism Back, Please?”, Isis, 98(1), 138-142.
Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory, Oxford University Press.
Abrahamsson, S., Bertoni,F. and Mol, A. (2015). Living with omega-3: new materialism and enduring Concerns, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 33, pp. 4 – 19.

4. Agential Realism
Session Focus
Barad’s Agential Realism, the philosophical stance on which the notion of sociomateriality is built, will be introduced. We will identify the theory’s core concepts and methodological guidance. In addition, we will discuss an empirical study that applies the conceptual lens offered by the Agential Realism.

Required readings
Barad, K. (2003). Posthumanist Performativity: Toward an Understanding of How Matter comes to Matter. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture, 28(3): 801-831.
Jones, M. 2014. A Matter of Life and Death: Exploring Conceptualizations of Sociomateriality in the Context of Critical Care. MIS Quarterly, 38(3): 895-925.
Scott, S. V., & Orlikowski, W. J. 2014. Entanglement in Practice: Performing Anonymity through Social Media. MIS Quarterly, 38(3): 873-893.

Recommended readings
Nicolini, D. (2000).” Zooming in and out: Studying practices by switching theoretical lenses and trailing connections.” Organization, 30(12), 1391-1418.
Hultin, L. (2019). On becoming a sociomaterial researcher: Exploring epistemological practices grounded in a relational, performative ontology. Information and Organization, 29(2), 91-104.

5. Critical Realism
Session Focus
Bhaskar’s Critical Realism will be introduced as one of the philosophical stances used to theorize materiality. Both the notions of affordances and imbrication draw on it for its conceptual infrastructure. We will identify the theory’s core concepts and methodological guidance. In addition, we will discuss empirical studies that apply the conceptual lens offered by the Critical Realism.

Required readings
Mutch, A. 2010. “Technology, Organization and Structure—A Morphogenetic Approach,” Organization Science, (21:2), pp.
507-520. Leonardi, P. M. (2011). When Flexible Routines Meet Flexible Technologies: Affordances, Constraints, and the Imbrication of Human and Material Agencies MIS Quarterly, 35(1): 147-167.
Volkoff, O., & Strong, D. M. (2013). Critical Realism and Affordances: Theorizing IT-Associated Organizational Change Processes MIS Quarterly, 37(3): 819-834.
Recommended readings
Bygstad, B., Munkvold, B.E., & Volkoff, O. (2016). Identifying Generative Mechanisms through Affordances: A Framework for Critical Realist Data Analysis, Journal of Information Technology, 31(1), p. 83-96.
Wynn, Donald E. and Williams, Clay K. (2012) "Principles for Conducting Critical Realist Case Study Research in Information Systems," MIS Quarterly, 36(3), p. 787-810.
MISQ Special Issue on Critical Realism, 2013.
Collier, A. 1994. Critical Realism: An Introduction to Roy Bhaskar's Philosophy. Verso: London.

6. Research Proposal Workshop
Session Focus
We will workshop each student’s research proposal. Students will present the research proposals that they have worked on throughout the course. These presentations are limited to 10 minutes, allowing considerable time for discussion. This workshop offers an opportunity to gather feedback that can be incorporated into each participant’s own dissertation projects.

Event Location

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Organizer Contact Information

CBS PhD School
Nina Iversen

Phone: +45 3815 2475

Organizer Contact Information

CBS PhD School
Nina Iversen

Phone: +45 3815 2475