What is IT in use and why does it matter for IS design?

Kai Riemer, Robert Bruce Johnston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


In both Information Systems and Design Science two core concepts are the IT artefact, commonly seen as a core object of interest, and the user for whom the artefact is designed and by whom it is adopted. In this position paper we analyse the ontological character of this conception and suggest that it is (implicitly) informed by dualist ontology that separates a subject(user) and an object (artefact). We present an alternate holistic ontology derived from Heidegger’s analysis of equipment in Being and Time. Using Heidegger’s ways of being we show that while IT may naturally present as an object in the world of the designer, designers must understand and take account that in the world of the fluent user, IT is equipment which is co-constituted with a nexus of other equipment, user practices and social identities. We articulate why this distinction matters for practices of design under three headings: Studying the user, the design object, and studying IT acceptance. We conclude by advocating IT as equipment as a necessary perspective for design in IS.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-21
Number of pages17
JournalSystems, Signs & Actions
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • The IT Artefact
  • IT as equipment
  • Design
  • Heidegger
  • Cartesian Dualism
  • Holism

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