Challenging the philosophical foundations of modeling organizational reality: The case of process modeling

Kai Riemer, Robert B. Johnston, Dirk S. Hovorka, Marta Indulska

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference PaperResearch

10 Citations (Scopus)


Representing organizational reality in conceptual models is an important part of IS practice. In this paper we expose and challenge the taken-for-granted ontological and epistemological assumptions that underpin common accounts of conceptual modeling, using process modeling as an example. We argue that, due to an implicit commitment to a dualist ontology and representationalist epistemology, much literature regards the elicitation and representation of reality in the course of modeling as largely unproblematic. We draw on Martin Heidegger's holistic philosophy to give an alternative analysis that brings to the fore challenges in 1) eliciting knowledge of routine activities, 2) capturing knowledge from domain experts and 3) representing organizational reality in authentic ways. As a result we come to see modeling as a practice that performs particular realities rather than simply representing a given reality. We hope to initiate a critical discussion on the implications of the current philosophical grounding of conceptual modeling.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 34th International Conference on Information Systems (ICIS 2013)
Subtitle of host publication15-18 December, 2013, Milan, Italy
EditorsRichard Baskerville, Michael Chau
Place of PublicationAtlanta GA USA
PublisherAssociation for Information Systems
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9780615933832
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2013
Externally publishedYes
EventInternational Conference on Information Systems 2013 - Milan, Italy
Duration: 15 Dec 201318 Dec 2013
Conference number: 34th (Proceedings)


ConferenceInternational Conference on Information Systems 2013
Abbreviated titleICIS 2013
OtherTheme: Reshaping Society through Information Systems Design
Internet address


  • Conceptual modeling
  • Expertise
  • Heidegger
  • Philosophy
  • Process modeling

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