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JAIS Call for Papers: Envisioning Digital Transformation: Advancing Theoretical Diversity

Wednesday, May 13, 2020   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Adeline Border

Envisioning Digital Transformation: Advancing Theoretical Diversity

Special Issue Co-Editors:
M. Lynne Markus, Bentley University
Frantz Rowe, University of Nantes and SKEMA Business School of France

Important Dates:
October 1, 2020: Deadline for Extended Abstract Submission to the Workshop
October 10, 2020: Notification of Acceptance to the Workshop
January 5, 2021: Workshop at HICSS in Kauai, Hawaii
September 1, 2021: Deadline for Paper Submissions to the Special Issue

Motivation for the Special Issue:
Everything about theory is contested in our field today. First, there’s the role of theory in IS research. Is it necessary for research publications to make a theoretical contribution? What is a theoretical contribution? Should we devote more effort to building theory or to testing theory? Can you test theory with qualitative data? Is theory even relevant if one is doing research with analytic or machine learning methods? Second, there’s the issue of how to build theory. Can you build theory with quantitative data? Do you need empirical data to build theory? How important is the literature review (and what type of review) in theory building papers (Leidner 2018)? What is the role of “disciplined imagination” (Weick 1989) in IS theorizing? Is “armchair theorizing” permissible, and, if so, when? Third, there’s the issue of what theory looks like. Is a good theory a boxes-and-arrows diagram followed by the more-X-the-more-Y type propositions? Or are there other persuasive ways to present theories? One possibility might be events, conditions and mechanisms. Another might be narratives of how things happen. And, perhaps most important of all, how do we as a field cope with multiple, overlapping, possibly inconsistent, theories of the same phenomenon?

This special issue is a bold venture designed to shed light on some of these questions, and particularly on the third issue. Unlike traditional special issues on theory where the phenomena of interest may vary, or traditional special issues on a phenomenon where the role of theory may vary (e.g., theory building, theorizing, theory testing, theory extending etc), this special issue focuses on a single topic area (digital transformation) and a single role of theory (theorizing). The aim of our special issue is to explore the potential value of diversity in theorizing and theory presentation in our field by inviting loosely-constrained theoretical contributions on the broad and emerging topic area of digital transformation. What will we learn about IS theory if we invite theory papers from all quarters, but only on one broad and unsettled topic? What will we learn about IS theory if we focus exclusively on the product of theorizing, excluding from evaluation the sources and mechanics of theory construction? This special issue will find out.

What We Seek for the Special Issue:
We seek exciting conceptual papers addressing important aspects of digital transformation (a concept that might include specific phenomena such as robotic process automation or the Internet of Things). The concept of digital transformation has been widely embraced in society at large, but is difficult to define (Vial 2019), and it often appears to be a meaningless buzzword. For the purposes of the special issue, we leave open the definitions of digital transformation, because we aim to provoke productive debate. Does this concept refer to technical systems and their evolution and/or to social dynamics of organizations or society at large? What is transformation (or digitalization or automation, etc.), and how does it make a difference? Is it significantly different from change (Besson and Rowe 2012)? What is the process of digital transformation? What causes or contributes to digital transformation? What are the effects of digital transformation? These are just of the few of the many questions that might be addressed through conceptual analysis and theory-building that draws on a variety of sources (e.g., experience, literature, empirical data, and thought-experiments). While Design Science Research has emerged as a leading problem-solving paradigm building useful artifacts, we are also interested in design theory and its presentation.

We are interested in plausible and well-crafted statements of theory about digital transformation. We are interested in theoretical statements consistent with any established philosophical tradition or interpretation of causality (Markus and Rowe 2018). In particular, we are open to submissions that move beyond the organizational level of analysis (where most of the literature on digital transformation now focuses). We particularly invite contributions at the ecosystem and societal levels.

We are not interested in papers that discuss how to build theory about digital transformation. Nor are we interested in research essays about theory presentation. We do not welcome papers that provide extensive evidence (whether prior literature, qualitative data, or quantitative data) or details about the analysis involved in theory construction.

Accepted papers are likely to conform roughly to this template:

• We expect that accepted papers will exhibit clear relevance to the topic area of digital transformation.
• We expect that accepted papers will describe briefly the traditions and sources of
inspiration that they build upon.
• We expect that accepted papers will present/elaborate theoretical statements, whether they were deductively, inductively, or abductively derived.
• We expect that accepted papers will justify the statements as the authors see fit.
Justifications can refer to data, literature, or whatever, but the main evaluation criterion is the quality of the theoretical arguments presented, not the quality or quantity of evidence used to justify them.
• We expect that accepted papers will offer insightful implications of the theoretical
statements, whether for theory, for practice, or for teaching.

The special issue will include both invited and open call papers. Both short papers (e.g., focusing on specifics concepts) and regular-length papers are invited.

Again, we emphasize that this call for papers is floated as a bold new venture to see what we can learn from the diversity of theoretical contributions on a broad and emerging research topic. We do not know what will come of this venture, but if we did, it would be doctrine, not research!

Special Issue Editorial Board:
Christanthi Avgerou, London School of Economics, United Kingdom
Michel Avital, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark
Samir Chatterjee, Claremont Graduate School, USA
Shirley Gregor, Australia National University, Australia
Robert Gregory, Commonwealth Virginia University, USA
Varun Grover, Clemson University, USA
Nik Hassan, University of Minnesota, USA
Thomas Hess, Ludwig Maximilian University, Germany
Alan Hevner, University of South Florida, USA
Jonny, Holmstrom, Umeå University, Sweden
John L. King, University of Michigan, USA
Thomas Kude, ESSEC Business School, France
Kalle Lyytinen, Case Western University, USA and University Jyväskylä, Finland
Magnus Mahring, Stockholm School of Economics, Sweden
Nigel Melville, University of Michigan, USA
Tobias Mettler, University of Lausanne, Switzerland
Ramiro Montealegre, University of Colorado at Boulder, USA
Benjamin Müller, University of Lausanne, Switzerland
Ojelanki Ngwenyama, Ryerson University, Canada and Cape Town University, South Africa
Ming Seok Pan, Temple University, USA
Niki Panteli, Royal Holloway University of London, United Kingdom
Suzanne Rivard, HEC Montréal, Canada
Carol Saunders, University of South Florida, USA
Christina Soh, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
Mani Subramani, University of Minnesota, USA
Huseyin Tanriverdi, University of Texas, Austin, USA
Dov Te’eni, Tel Aviv, University, Israël
Tuure Tuunanen, University Jyväskylä, Finland
Martin Wiener, Dresden University, Germany
Bo Sophia Xiao, The University of Hawaii at Manoa, USA

Process and Timelines:
The deadlines for this Special Issue are extended with the aim of attracting new work not already in progress. Submissions to the Special Issue will open in June 2021 and close on September 1st 2021. Two optional paper workshops are planned: 1) at HICSS January 2021 for prospective authors and 2) at ICIS December 2021 for authors of papers that have advanced beyond the first round of reviews.




October 1, 2020

Deadline for a 5-page (max) statements of interest in attending the HICSS paper workshop, covering
•Focus of the theoretical statement and relevance to
digital transformation
•Sources of inspiration or intellectual traditions drawn on
Early thoughts on form of theory presentation

Jan 5, 2021

•Paper workshop at HICSS in Kauai, Hawaii

September 1, 2021

Deadline for paper submissions

Mid-November, 2021

First-round review decisions

December, 2021

Workshop at ICIS in Austin, Texas

March 1, 2022

Deadline for submission of revised papers

Mid-June, 2022

Provisional decision and final round of comments

August 1, 2022

Deadline for submission of revised papers

September 2, 2022

Notification of final decisions


If you have questions, please email and


Besson, P., and Rowe, F. 2012. "Strategizing Information Systems-Enabled Organizational Transformation: A Transdisciplinary Review and New Directions," The Journal of Strategic Information Systems (21:2), pp. 103-124.

Leidner, D. E. 2018. "Review and Theory Symbiosis: An Introspective Retrospective," Journal of the Association for Information Systems (19:6), p. 1.

Markus, M. L., and Rowe, F. 2018. "Is It Changing the World? Conceptions of Causality for Information Systems Theorizing," MIS Quarterly (42:4), pp. 1255-1280.

Vial, G. 2019. "Understanding Digital Transformation: A Review and a Research Agenda," The Journal of Strategic Information Systems (28:2), pp. 118


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