Theorizing About Technology

John Leslie King from the University of Michigan will deliver the keynote under the title Theorizing About Technology. Read the abstract below.

Technologies affect people through socio-technical systems.  The “socio” is more influential and difficult to understand than the “technical.”  Adjectives are less important than the nouns they modify, so the right research question is, “What is the nature of [noun] such that [adjective] makes any difference?”  Skepticism is advised because predictions about technology are commonly exaggerated.  Theorizing about technology is de rigueur in a technology-crazed environment, but much technology theorizing is undisciplined.  This discussion pushes discipline when theorizing about technology for research purposes.


Design empathy

Allen Higgins from University College Dublin will present research into Design Empathy. Read the summary below.

Storytelling and workplace talk have a crucial role in producing designs. Dialogic processes offer a way to access design thinking and creative responses to design challenges. For example, an oft used practice in software engineering is to perform intensive imaginative ‘talking through’ or thinking through code; an approach that pretends conceptual agency to the code that designers then imagine in operation. The voicing of design ideas concretises the designers current intention whilst grappling with other ideas, constraints, contingencies, and opportunities. Edited code then expresses these ideas and ultimately becomes a new active agent, compiled and run to perform and respond within other software/hardware substrates that animate the nascent program. Code is produced through emerging ongoing embodied artistic actions and practical performances. There are layers to meaning and action that deft minds and skilled practitioners pick up and interweave.  An understanding of mutual imaginative interactions constituting software co-design is informed by the phenomenology of empathy. A phenomenology of empathy describes “the self-relation of the ego or self, and its experience of others” (Moran and Mooney 2002, p.22) and thus an account of the experience of understanding the other, of subjective/intersubjective unfolding involving memory, fantasy and expectation. I suggest an outline of a theory of practice for designing, the unfolding of objectivity/subjectivity in design-discovery work and objectification processes with implications for the professional culture of software engineering.

The interplay of human and technological agencies in IT incident sensemaking and response.

Archimedes Apronti from Royal Holloway will present research co-authored with Neil Pollock into The interplay of human and technological agencies in IT incident sensemaking and response. Read the summary below.

IT infrastructures are complex technological systems that consist of multiple technologies with different configurations. In this presentation, I will highlight that whilst such infrastructures enable the delivery of business critical IT services across different industries, they are nonetheless susceptible to unexpected failures, much like all complex operational systems. I will take this as my point of departure and argue that because of this inevitability of failure, it is important to study how IT operational engineers make collective sense of such incidents in order to mount effective responses. The focus on collective sensemaking is premised on previous understandings that groups of knowledgeable people are more capable of dealing with complex incidents and design choices since, unlike individuals, they command a more richer and broader range of expertise, knowledge and experiences. However, considering the scale and complexity of modern IT infrastructures, I will advance that it is almost impossible for IT incident response teams to exclusively rely on these human centered abilities or repertoire of skills to troubleshoot and respond to infrastructure incidents. This opens a leeway for technological tools like automated monitoring and diagnostic interfaces with their own inbuilt scripts to also contribute to incident sensemaking. From this perspective, I will argue that sensemaking is not a purely socio-cognitive process that is the preserve of humans, but rather it is a sociomaterial process. This challenges the historical grounding of sensemaking as a sociological process that is oriented towards social construction.

Co-innovation in large software platforms

Fábio Rocha from the University of Edinburgh Business School will present research co-authored with Neil Pollock into Co-innovation in large software platforms: Theorising a new model of digitalisation. Read the summary below.

Digital technologies are increasingly composing the fabrics of organizations. Nowadays it is difficult to find an organization that does not have any digital technology as part of the core of their products and services or, at least, taking care of some of their operations. Enterprise System (ES) is one type of digital technology—a large scale corporate system—that is virtually omnipresent in a global market that is expected to reach more than £148 billion by 2020, having a consistent five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.5% in the period. The capacity of innovating and meet customers’ needs brought ES there, and it is what keeps ES there. Large-scale software innovation represents an increasing challenge for software vendors to keep evolving specialized, diverse industry skills to serve continuously such market while promoting an integration of this heterogeneous knowledge. That is why software vendors are relying on others—customers, for instance—to keep their pace of innovation. They are co-innovating. Looking at this picture one can ask, but why do customers engage in co-innovation ventures with software vendors? What are the tensions between the constituents, given their heterogeneity? Moreover, what are the mechanisms (e.g. legal, operational) that support such endeavours? After all, is it a new model of digitalisation? The research aims at deepening the studies in search for answers to these questions and offering insights able to guide management practices in the ES innovation.

The freedom to deploy, experiment and innovate

Jianhua Shao from City University, Cass Business School will present research co-authored with Yossi Lichtenstein and Stephan Haefliger into The freedom to deploy, experiment and innovate: A comparative analysis of open commons infrastructure in the web and app economies. Read the summary below.

In my talk, I will attempt to challenge on the commercial pervasiveness and ownership complexity of digital infrastructure, as we know little about the contingencies involved in the deployment of and experimentation with digital infrastructure by downstream businesses that determines their innovation activities and economic success. I explore these contingencies by asking How does OSS deployment influence digital entrepreneurship? What are the infrastructure components preferred by young companies in contrast to established companies? How does OSS influence firms’ own technology and business? Does the ownership of digital infrastructure impact on their deployment? We address these questions through an economic and legal perspective that contrasts Property with Commons. I will introduce a comparative analysis of actual deployment and experimentation with infrastructure components, by entrepreneurial Web and mobile commerce companies. I believe the growth in data science and machine learning on the technology side, as well as scalable servitisation and multi-sided markets on the commercial side should provide a rich context for discussion.

Explaining value cocreation in social networking services

Alexander Eck from the University of St.Gallen will present ongoing research co-authored with Benjamin Spottke (principal researcher) and Jochen Wulf into Explaining value cocreation in social networking services: towards a process model of resource integration. Read the summary below.

Consumers and providers of popular social networking services (SNS) cocreate considerable value, as Facebook’s 1.2bn daily active users and over US-$ 12bn generated profit in 2016 showcase. Beyond raw numbers, value cocreation becomes apparent in the continuously changing structure and behavior of popular SNS – the Facebook experience in 2007 was considerably different from that of 2017. According to the service-dominant logic, value is cocreated when various actors contribute their respective resources in a collaborative integration effort. Despite the popularity of this concept, the exact processes of resource integration which lead to cocreated value remain conspicuously abstract. Furthermore, extant models remain linear and do not specifically account for change induced by repeated resource integration. We present an ongoing research project that aims to explain how consumers and providers cocreate value in SNS, focusing on resource integration which induces iterative changes. This research is rooted in an examination of Facebook and YouTube, in which we analyze how and why distinct features change over time and how both consumers and providers make use of them to cocreate value. Through gradual generalization of selected episodes of change we aim to distill archetypical processes for value cocreation through resource integration.

What is Data? What is Information?

Florian Allwein from London School of Economics will present research into What is Data? What is Information? Read the summary below.

As the field of Information Systems (IS) research is increasingly concerned with data, a clear definition of this term, especially in distinction from information, would be desirable. As McKinney & Yoos (2010) show, “’Information’ is poorly defined in the Information Systems research literature, and is almost always unspecified, a reflexive, all-purpose but indiscriminant solution to an unbounded variety of problems.” (p. 329). This paper builds on this work and looks at how the term ‘data’ has been used in recent IS research. It finds that most authors take an implicit view of data as unprocessed information. Based on an outside definition of data as “facts of the world”, it relates the concepts to the ontology of critical realism, arguing that ‘data’ should refer to items in the realm of the actual, whereas ‘information’ should refer to items in the realm of the empirical. IS can thus be seen as efforts to capture the facts of the world from the realm of the actual and store them (in the realm of the empirical) in order to make them accessible for analysis. The paper ends by outlining how this can shape future research.