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10 Questions with Liz Davidson

Friday, June 26, 2015   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Brook Pritchett

10 Questions with Liz Davidson


In this edition of our monthly membership feature, Elizabeth (Liz) Davidson answers questions on her vision for the Information and Organization journal, current trends she finds most interesting, and other personal recollections. Davidson is the W. Ruel Johnson Distinguished Professor of Information Technology Management at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.  You can find more about Liz here:


Q1: The conversation began with a question from Ulrike Schultze:

Liz Davidson has just taken on the editorship of Information & Organization, a journal started by Dick Boland. I’d be interested to learn more about her vision of the journal’s role in advancing the field of IS.

Information and Organization developed as a niche journal that publishes contextually rich studies on how information technologies and human activities are mutually constituted in organizational contexts.  That will remain the journal’s focus, though I hope to stimulate debate on what “organization” (and organizing) means in today’s technology-infused world. 

I&O will also continue to engender interactive debates about social theories of IS/IT innovation. Many academic publications act as monologues, in which authors rhetorically create a “gap in the literature” that they will fill, rather than to engage deeply with others’ theorizing. (It’s somewhat like politicians in an election campaign debate, who ignore each other’s questions and use their limited time on stage to promote their own viewpoint.) Interactive debates and thoughtful commentaries are critical to advancing the IS field, and I&O has the flexibility and the community of scholars to do so.



Q2: What is you most rewarding service activity? And why?

To date, my most rewarding service activity was working with the Organizational Communication and Information Systems (OCIS) division of Academy of Management as a division officer.  The five-year rotation allowed me to organize a doctoral consortium, serve as program chairman, run a junior faculty consortium and organize paper development workshops while working with a great group of colleagues. It was an amazing learning experience. I expect my new role as Editor-in-Chief of Information and Organization will be even more challenging and rewarding.



Q3: Currently, what is your favorite class to teach? And why?

I’ve been teaching a Ph.D. social science research design and methods class for more than a decade.  I still enjoy teaching the class each year because I continue to learn new things and deepen my understanding of research methods.   And it’s rewarding to work with Ph.D. students as they discover the research design path that will work with their research interests and personal style.



Q4: Favorite saying or quote.

Well … this is not scholarly or philosophical! It’s from the Sci Fi channel reboot of the TV show, Battlestar Galactica:  “All of this has happened before, all of this will happen again.” 

I think a better understanding of the technological past could inform our approaches to understanding the future of technology innovation. The IS field is so focused on “the next big thing” we don’t pay enough attention to reoccurring  patterns in organizational forms that emerge and take shape around new waves of technological innovation. I don’t mean the past simply repeats, but there are recurring patterns arising from underlying tensions, e.g. between centralization and decentralization of organizational control over technology, that influence how innovations develop.


Q5: What's one trend you are excited about?

Personally, and in terms of research opportunities, I’m excited about the potential synergies among consumer  healthcare monitoring IT (like FitBits), social sharing and networking to promote better health, and improvements in healthcare systems that could result from widespread adoption and integration of these technologies with care-giving practices. I’m also concerned that the personal data generated by these devices could be used to penalize people.   So there are many opportunities to do good theoretical and empirical research with social value and to influence public policy.



Q6: Name one habit that makes you more productive at work?

I don’t know if this is a “habit” or a “practice” – but for me, it’s working with great collaborators, who help me be more productive.  Doing research, particularly the analysis and writing, is too easy to set aside for more immediate tasks like grading or administration.  Collaborators help keep me motivated, focused, energized and enjoying the work, and therefore more productive.



Q7: If you were to do it all over again, what would you have done differently?

An academic career seems to demand tradeoffs between personal well-being, family and professional development.  I found it was too easy to trade off physical wellness (exercise) for time at my desk.  So, I would take better care of myself, particularly during the high-pressure years working toward tenure. And, I would take more time to simply vacation with family and enjoy the time with them, rather than always bringing along papers to write or review or grade and emails to respond to.



Q8: What people have influenced your career?

There are so many colleagues who have inspired me through my academic career!

The first person on this list is my Ph.D. advisor, Wanda Orlikowski.  She helped me to see the world of technology-infused practice in new ways, through new “lenses”. 


I would not have even imagined making the move from industry to academia without the inspiration of Jack Rockart and the MIT Center for Information Systems Research (CISR). 


Dan Robey and Allen Lee inspired me to value and to pursue journal editorial service roles.  Dan is a great mentor as I take on the editor-in-chief role of Information and Organization this year.


Three collaborators and friends -- Michael Barrett, Mike Chiasson and Emma Vaast – have been very influential in my career.   Working with these brilliant colleagues has been a privilege and has energized and helped direct my research -- and made the work much more fun and rewarding.


Ultimately the most important influence is my family--their support, encouragement and patience.



Q9: What is your favorite memory at an AIS event (ICIS/AMCIS) or affiliated conference (ECIS/PACIS/etc.)?

I have to go way back to the ICIS doctoral consortium I attended in 1993.  The consortium overall was an amazing experience.  The single most memorable event was watching Kalle Lyytinen belting out a beer drinking song (in Finish of course) at the invitation of the MC of a (rather tacky) dinner club where Ph.D. students and faculty mentors from the consortium held their final get together. 


Q10: Tell us something very few people know about you?

My very first “job” was as a potato picker for $.25/barrel of potatoes.  I grew up in a small town, where the public schools closed for the potato harvest, and most people in the community took temporary harvest jobs to earn money.  This experience inspired me to get an education so as to find a job that was a bit more lucrative, since I was never able to pick more than 30 barrels in day.  



In closing: Who would you like to see answer these questions next? And what would you like to see her/his thoughts on?

Lars Mathiassen. I would like Lars to talk about whether he sees executive doctoral education as a major “market” for business education in the future.




Prepared by
David Agogo, University of Massachusetts
For questions about this series or suggestions of who you would like to see interviewed, please contact David Agogo (

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