President's Message: In Praise of Our History (and Future)
Monday, February 11, 2013
Every discipline and association, at some point in time,
recognizes the importance of systematically recording its own history. I well remember the paper by Gary Dickson
published back in 1981 (when I was a Ph.D. student) that helped frame my thinking
about our discipline. Other luminaries such as Dick Mason and Jim McKenney (1987), have contributed insight over the
years. I am especially appreciative of
the more recent efforts by Rudy Hirschheim and colleagues (e.g., Hirschheim and
Klein, 2012). As Rudy and Carol Saunders
and Detmar Straub note in the introduction to the JAIS special issue (Vol. 13, Issue 4, pp. i-viii, April 2012),
"We believe that a study of the history of the IS discipline can foster
understanding of where the discipline of IS has come from, what has happened in
the discipline over the past forty-plus years, and how the discipline has
evolved to the position it is in today.”
Some of you may have heard (and others not) that AIS now
has an official historian, Ping Zhang,
whose AIS Department Editor for History position falls under the auspices of
Richard Baskerville, AIS V. P. of Communications.
Ping is a long-time AIS member, a published authority on IS history, and
has graciously agreed to take on the responsibilities associated with this
role. Many others e.g., Gordon Davis and
Frank Land, have indicated their support for this activity. Sadly, we have lost one of our founding
fathers, Paul Gray, who assuredly would have had insight that was not captured.
AIS has named our Presidential Gallery (an
artifact of our history that Paul created) as the Paul Gray AIS Presidential
Gallery in recognition and memory of his legacy of service to the field and
In their introduction to the JAIS special issue, Rudy
Hirschheim, Carol Saunders and Detmar Straub go on to note that they "believe
that an historical grounding will also help identify important research areas and
issues that confront the IS discipline today. Furthermore, it should help to
form vision and an identity that can be shared among researchers in the
discipline. Collectively, the insights derived from an historical analysis are
a prerequisite for IS researchers to make informed judgments and engage in a
discourse across the many specializations, which currently define the scope of
IS research and teaching on where the IS discipline could and should go in the
I concur with this assessment and look forward to Ping
Zhang’s efforts in starting us down this path.
As but one example, we hope to have panels at major conferences over the
course of the next year, or so, to discuss related issues. Other multimedia activities will include
interviews of founders of our discipline to capture their memories and
perspectives. It has been my personal
pleasure to have interacted with many of these pioneers and I can guarantee
they have much to offer in this endeavor. One of my favorite presentation slides (which
many of you have seen) is "our future is challenging, but bright.”
Dickson, G. (1981). Management information systems:
Evolution and status. In M. Yovits (Ed.), Advances in Computers (Vol.
20, pp. 1-39.). New York: Academic Press.
Hirschheim, R. & Klein, H. K. (2012). A glorious and not
so-short history of the information systems field. Journal of the
Association for Information Systems, 13(4), 188-235.
Mason, R. O., McKenney, J. L., & Copeland, D. (1997).
Developing an historical tradition in MIS research. MIS Quarterly,