The obituary as bricolage: the Mann Gulch disaster and the problem of heroic rationality




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Palgrave Macmillian



Peer reviewed


This paper discusses Claudio Ciborra's critique of traditional economic rationality. It recounts his account of the Mann Gulch Disaster. The important aspect of his reading of the disaster is that apparently irrational actions may provide appropriate solutions for complex problems. He bases this observation on a phenomenology-inspired understanding of the world which emphasises Dasein's characteristic as being-in-the-world. The paper interprets this as an important contribution to the critique of rationality as put forward by critical research in information systems. However, this phenomenological approach also produces difficulties due to its difficulty of dealing with intersubjective understanding and problems of self-application. The paper concludes by suggesting that such difficulties can be overcome by appropriating Cibora's idea of bricolage and that this special issue may be read as an expression of such collective bricolage.


Claudio Ciborra was one of the leading and independent thinkers in the area of information systems. This paper argues that his work can be interpreted as part of the critical stream of research in the area. It uses Ciborra’s account of a catastrophic incident to critically reflect on commonly held assumptions about management and rationality in computing. The conceptual contribution of the paper which was published in Europe’s leading IS outlet, is that it establishes the close affinity between phenomenological research and the critical tradition.


RAE 2008, UoA 23 Computer Science and Informatics, heroic management, critical research, rationality, Mann Gulch disaster


Stahl, B.C. (2005) The Obituary as Bricolage: The Mann Gulch Disaster and the Problem of Heroic Rationality. European Journal of Information Systems, 14(5), pp. 487-491.


Research Institute

Centre for Computing and Social Responsibility (CCSR)