Different views on the definitions of concepts exist

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Different views on the definitions of concepts exist. The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy (1999) lists 18 different kinds of definition. Dubin (1969) in his work on theorizing prefers to use the term “units” rather than concepts for the basic building blocks of theory, with units being distinguished (defined) by the properties they possess. He uses the language of set theory to describe different types of units. For example, a unit (construct) can be an individual unit, or a member of a set (class), for which membership is defined in terms of having one or more common properties. Similar understanding can be found in authors such as Parsons and Wand (2013) in their treatment of classification principles and Osigweh (1989), who sees it as important in offering a definition to say what is not included in the definition (i.e., what does not belong to the defined set of things). In addition, however, in many fields, it is not unusual to define what a complex thing is by saying what the thing is composed of: for example, in the definition of an atom. This usage is common in information systems: for example, the key concept of an “information system” itself is usually defin ed as consisting of a number of components (input, output, processing, and feedback), which bear a structural relationship to each other (e.g. see Stair and Reynolds 2012). Specification of such concepts is often aided by a diagrammatic representation. Bag ozzi (1984) uses the term “structural definition” for something of this nature. An “IT - platform” may need to be defined in this way, as even at first glance the concept appears to refer to a complex thing with a number of component parts that are structurally related. Pragmatically, for the process of defining a concept we heed the advice of Suddaby (2010, p. 2010) who says that good definitions should: (i) “capture the essential properties and characteristics of the phenomena under consideration”; (ii) “avoid tautology or circularity”; and (iii) “should be parsimonious”. Suddaby also recommends showing the scope of the construct and relationships among constructs, including prior historical constructs on which a newer construct is based. Eisenhardt (1989, p. 542) describes the process of developing a construct definition from cases and notes that “many researchers rely on tables to summarize and tabulate the evidence underlying the construct” (citing Miles and Huberman 1984; Sutton and Callahan 1987). 3.2 Limitations in Understanding IT-Platforms Although the concept “platform” is mentioned often in the IS literature, understanding on the precise meaning of the concept has not been achieved. The definitions of platforms vary widely between the general and the specific. For example, Gawer (2009, p. 2) more generally refers to platforms as “technological building blocks, providing an essential function to a technological system – which acts as a foundation upon which other firms can develop complementary produ cts, technologies, or services”.

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