Information systems, sociomaterial practices and the emergence of environmental management infrastructures
Information systems are an integral part of environmental management infrastructures – complex assemblages of social and technical artifacts, human actors and sociomaterial routines enacted in the pursuit of environmental sustainability outcomes. We analyse the case of an environmental management infrastructure developed around a ‘vessel management system’ by a South Australian regulator between 2004 and 2013. The goal of this infrastructure was to sustain water quality by controlling the discharge of ‘greywater’ from vessels on South Australia’s inland waters. We conceptualise environmental management infrastructure, and the information systems they encompass, as the temporally emergent outcome of human agents’ attempts to extend their environmental management practice in a particular direction, and how that trajectory of emergence is shaped by the intersection of human agencies, material performances and disciplinary practices.
Abbott, O. (2016). Posthumanist perspectives and the Chernobyl disaster: Dances of agency, temporal emergence, and disaster risk management. International Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters, 34(2), 231-249.
Australian Broadcasting Corporation. (2012, March 22). Boaties warned of greywater crackdown. ABC Regional News. Retrieved from Australia/New Zealand Reference Centre (EBSCO) on 6 May 2019.
Baker, L. R. (2004). The ontology of artifacts. Philosophical Explorations, 7(2), 99-111.
Baygi, R. M., Introna, L. D., & Hultin, L. (2021). Everything flows: Studying continuous sociotechnological transformation in a fluid and dynamic digital world. MIS Quarterly, 45(1), 423-452.
Brennan, B. (2013, January 16). Fifty shades of greywater. The Murray Valley Standard.
Burazin L. (2019). Law as an artifact. In M. Sellers, & S. Kirste (Eds) Encyclopedia of the philosophy of law and social philosophy. Dordrech: Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-6730-0_217-1
Callon, M. (2007). What does it mean to say that economics is performative? In D. MacKenzie, F. Muniesa, & L. Siu, (Eds), Do economists make markets? On the performativity of economics (pp. 311-357). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Chae, B., & Poole, M. S. (2005). The surface of emergence in systems development: Agency, institutions, and large-scale information systems. European Journal of Information Systems, 14(1), 19-36.
Ciborra, C. U., & Hanseth, O. (2000). Introduction: From control to drift. In C. U. Ciborra Ciborra, K. Braa, A. Cordella, B. Dahlbom, A. Failla, O. Hanseth, V. Hepsø, J. Ljungberg, E. Monteiro, & K. A. Simon (Eds), From control to drift: The dynamics of corporate information structures (pp. 1-11). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
D’Adderio, L. (2011). Artifacts at the centre of routines: Performing the material turn in routines theory. Journal of Institutional Economics, 7(2), 197-230.
Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure. (2010, November 30). Blackwater audits underway. On Deck. Retrieved from
Department of Water, Land and Biodiversity Conservation. (2009). River vessel waste disposal options: Edition no 2.
Retrieved from https://www.epa.sa.gov.au/files/477475_riverboat.pdf
Edwards, P. N., Bowker, G. C., Jackson, S. J., & Williams, R. (2009). Introduction: An agenda for infrastructure studies. Journal of the Association for Information Systems, 10(5), 364-374.
Elder-Vass, D. (2007). Luhmann and emergentism: Competing paradigms for social systems theory? Philosophy of the Social Sciences, 37(4), 408-432.
Elliot, S., & Webster, J. (2017). Special issue on empirical research on information systems addressing the challenges of environmental sustainability: An imperative for urgent action. Information Systems Journal, 27(4), 367-378.
Environment Protection Authority. (2001). Environment Protection Authority annual report 2000–2001. Retrieved from https://www.epa.sa.gov.au/files/8271_annualreport0001.pdf
Environment Protection Authority. (2002). Environment Protection Authority annual report 2001–2002. Retrieved from https://www.epa.sa.gov.au/files/8272_annualreport0102.pdf
Environment Protection Authority. (2003a). State of the environment report for South Australia 2003. Retrieved from https://www.epa.sa.gov.au/files/4771457_soe_index.pdf
Environment Protection Authority. (2003b). Environment Protection (Water Quality) Policy 2003 and explanatory report.
Retrieved from https://www.epa.sa.gov.au/files/477390_epwq_report.pdf
Environment Protection Authority. (2007a). River Murray and Lower Lakes catchment risk assessment for water quality: Results and management options. Retrieved from https://www.epa.sa.gov.au/files/8598_risk_2_s8.pdf
Environment Protection Authority. (2007b). Houseboat audits. CE news [External newsletter], November 2007, p. 2.
Retrieved from https://www.epa.sa.gov.au/files/4771761_ce_news_002.pdf
Environment Protection Authority. (2008a). Code of practice for vessel and facility management (marine and inland waters). Adelaide: Environment Protection Authority.
Environment Protection Authority. (2008b, October 7). New standard for greywater treatment. [Media release]. Retrieved from https://www.epa.sa.gov.au/files/4771560_media209.pdf
Environment Protection Authority. (2009a, September 14). New Australian standard now available for greywater treatment systems. [Media release]. Adelaide: Environment Protection Authority.
Environment Protection Authority. (2009b, November 25). Greywater deadline extensions for commercial river boats [Media release]. Adelaide: Environment Protection Authority.
Environment Protection Authority. (2012a). Strategic plan 2012-2015. Retrieved from https://www.epa.sa.gov.au/files/4771468_strategic_1215.pdf
Environment Protection Authority. (2012b, March 16). EPA launches compliance program for vessel wastewater. [Media release].
Retrieved from https://www.epa.sa.gov.au/files/477894_media_16mar2012.pdf
Environment Protection Authority. (2015, June 12). Houseboat greywater management audits. [Media release].
Retrieved from https://www.epa.sa.gov.au/files/10911_media_12jun2015.pdf
Environment Protection Authority. (2019). Environment protection legislation. Retrieved from https://www.epa.sa.gov.au/data_and_publications/legislation
Eriksson, E., Auffarth, K., Henze, M., & Ledin, A. (2002). Characteristics of grey wastewater. Urban Water, 4, 85-104.
Faulkner, P., & Runde, J. (2019). Theorizing the digital object. MIS Quarterly, 43(34), 1279-1302.
Gallagher, N., & Wigley, S. (2001). Ecological impact of houseboats on the River Murray in South Australia. Adelaide: Murray Darling Association Incorporated for Conservation and Sustainable Development.
Gaskin, J., Berente, N., Lyytinen, K., & Yoo, Y. (2014). Toward generalizable sociomaterial inquiry: A computational approach for zooming in and out of sociomaterial routines. MIS Quarterly, 38(3), 849-871.
Harvey, P., Jensen, C. B., & Morita, A. (2017). Introduction: Infrastructural complications. In P. Harvey, C. B. Jensen, & A. Morita (Eds), Infrastructures and social complexity: A companion (pp. 1-22). Abingdon: Routledge.
Huvila, I. (2016). Awkwardness of becoming a boundary object: Mangle and materialities of reports, documentation data, and the archaeological work. The Information Society, 32(4), 280-297.
Jean, D. (2012, May 25). EPA angers houseboat owners with waste threat. The Advertiser. Retrieved from https://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/epa-angers-houseboat-owners-with-waste-threat/news-story/031ee85ecc6a8dd15ca5793f433bb555
Jenkin, T. A., Webster, J. & McShane, L. (2011). An agenda for ‘Green’ information technology and systems research. Information and Organization, 21(1), 17-40.
Jensen, C. B. (2015). Experimenting with political materials: Environmental infrastructures and ontological transformations. Distinktion: Scandinavian Journal of Social Theory, 16(1), 17-30.
Jensen, C. B., & Morita, A. (2015). Infrastructures as ontological experiments. Engaging Science, Technology, and Society, 1, 81-87.
Jensen, C. B., & Morita, A. (2017). Introduction: Infrastructures as ontological experiments, Ethnos, 82(4), 615-626
Johnston, R. B., Reimers, K., & Klein, S. (2016). Performing research validity: A “mangle of practice” approach. In L. Introna, D. Kavanagh, S. Kelly, W. Orlikowski, & S. Scott (Eds), Beyond interpretivism? New encounters with technology and organization (pp. 201-214). Cham, Switzerland: Springer.
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.
Kallinikos, J. (2012). Form, function, and matter: Crossing the border of materiality. In P. M. Leonardi, B. A. Nardi, & J. Kallinikos (Eds), Materiality and organizing: Social interaction in a technological world (pp. 67-87). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Kroes, P. (2010). Engineering and the dual nature of technical artefacts. Cambridge Journal of Economics, 34(1), 51-62.
Leonardi, P. M. (2010). Digital materiality? How artifacts without matter, matter. First Monday, 15(6). https://journals.uic.edu/ojs/index.php/fm/article/download/3036/2567
Leonardi, P. M. (2011). When flexible routines meet flexible technologies: Affordance, constraint, and the imbrication of human and material agencies. MIS Quarterly, 35(1), 147-167.
Northwest Hydraulic Consultants. (2010). Review of greywater management strategies to improve public health and water quality in Shuswap Lake. Prepared for the Fraser Basin Council, Kamloops, BC. Retrieved from https://www.fraserbasin.bc.ca/_Library/
Orlikowski, W. J. (2005). Material works: Exploring the situated entanglement of technological performativity and human agency. Scandinavian Journal of Information Systems, 17(1), 183–186.
Orlikowski, W. J. (2007). Sociomaterial practices: Exploring technology at work. Organization Studies, 28(9), 1435-1448.
Pentland, B. T., & Feldman, M. S. (2008). Designing routines: on the folly of desiging artifacts, while hoping for patterns of action. Information and Organization, 18(4), 235-250.
Pickering, A. (1995). The mangle of practice: Time, agency and science. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Pickering, A. (2008). New ontologies. In A. Pickering & K. Guzik (Eds), The mangle in practice: Science, society, and becoming (pp. 1-14). Durham and London: Duke University Press.
Pickering, A. (2013). Living in the material world. In F. X. de Vaujany & N. Mitev (Eds), Materiality and space: Organizations, artefacts and practices (pp. 25-40). London: Palgrave Macmillan.
Salter, C. (2001, January 12). Grey water ban? Murray Valley Standard. Retrieved from Infotrac Newsstand on 8 May 2019.
Sandberg, J., & Tsoukas, H. (2011). Grasping the logic of practice: Theorizing through practical rationality. Academy of Management Review, 36(2), 338-360.
Seidel, S., Recker, J., & vom Brocke, J. (2013). Sensemaking and sustainable practicing: Functional affordances of information systems in green transformations. MIS Quarterly, 37(4), 1275-1299.
Singh, M. & Sahu, G. P. (2020). Towards adoption of Green IS: A literature review using classification methodology. International Journal of Information Management, 54, Article ID: 102147.
Spencer, J. (2011). 2011 River Murray risk assessment. The Rambler, 29(4): 1, 7. River Murray Boat Owners Association.
Standards Australia. (2009). Greywater and the SA EPA. Standards Australia bulletin, #2_10 September 2009, p. 1. Retrieved from https://www.standards.org.au/StandardAU/
Star, S. L. (1999). The ethnography of infrastructure. American Behavioral Scientist, 43(3), 377-399.
Suchman, L. (2007). Human-Machine Reconfigurations: Plans and Situated Actions (2nd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Suchman, M. C. (2003). The contract as social artifact. Law & Society Review, 37(1), 91-142.
Symon, G., & Pritchard, K. (2015). Performing the responsive and committed employee through the sociomaterial mangle of connection. Organization Studies, 36(2), 241-263.
United Nations. (2018). The sustainable development goals report 2018. Retrieved from https://unstats.un.org/sdgs/files/report/2018/TheSustainableDevelopmentGoalsReport2018-EN.pdf
Venters, W., Oborn, E., & Barrett, M. (2014). A trichordal temporal approach to digital coordination: The sociomaterial mangling of the CERN grid. MIS Quarterly, 38(3), 927-949.
Verbeek, P. P., & Vermaas, P. E. (2009). Technological artifacts. In J.K. Berg Olsen, S.A. Pedersen, & V. Hendricks (Eds.), A Companion to the Philosophy of Technology (pp. 165-171). West-Sussex, UK: Blackwell.
Walsham, G. (1995). Interpretive case studies in IS research: nature and method. European Journal of Information Systems, 4(2), 74-81.
Williams, R., & Pollock, N. (2012). Moving beyond the single site implementation study: How (and why) we should study the biography of packaged enterprise solutions. Information Systems Research, 23(1), 1-22.
AJIS publishes open-access articles distributed under the terms of a Creative Commons Non-Commercial and Attribution License which permits non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and AJIS are credited. All other rights including granting permissions beyond those in the above license remain the property of the author(s).