Conference Paper

Exploring the Implications of Emergence for Artifact Mutability in Design Theory

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Abstract

Information Systems researchers have paid increasing attention to design theorizing, i.e. to theorize design-oriented knowledge more thoroughly. We contribute to the development of design theories by exploring the implications that the concept of 'emergence' has for the development of design theories. Specifically, we focus on linking this concept to 'artifact mutability' as one core component of design theories following the accepted anatomy by Gregor and Jones (2007). We enrich the conceptualization of artifact mutability with the differentiation of three types of emergence following Hovorka and Germonprez (2013) and provide actionable advice on how to make corresponding statements on artifact mutability in design theories. With our conceptual analysis, we provide a basis for the systematic inquiry into the relationship between design, artifact mutability and emergence in design science research. Moreover, we identify a set of important questions that can be answered more comprehensively by relying on our conceptualization.

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... Previous IS literature acknowledged different perspectives of emergence (Hovorka & Germonprez, 2013) and its role for artefact mutability (Wessel et al., 2016). In specific, three different forms of emergence have been distinguished (Hovorka & Germonprez, 2013): ...
... Previous literature argued that emergence is related to artifact mutability in IS design theories (Gregor & Jones, 2007;Wessel et al., 2016). We agree that emergence is an important aspect of a design theory. ...
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On April, 21 2020, the Insititut of Advanced Studies of the University of Siegen (“Forschungskolleg Siegen”) hosted a virtual conference on digitization. While hosting a purely digital event is well suited for a conference that seeks to discuss topics at the edges of innovation, it was also triggered by the current Corona pandemic. Therefore, we hosted this conference online to put emphasis on new opportunities of digitalization and to demonstrate that every cloud has a silver lining. The idea of this conference emerged as a follow-up of the FoKoS future award for scholars which was awarded in 2018. While the price is intended to acknowledge indiviual scholars and their research, the ambition was to put this idea one step further and organize an event from which more colleagues can benefit. For that reason, we decided to put a topic at the core which affects us all: digitization. Digitization is fundamental for several disciplines including philosophy, linguistics, mathematics, economics, architecture, healthcare and many more. Since digitization is fundamental for local acteurs including research institutes such as the University of Siegen and likewise for industry, it seems a perfect common theme for this conference. The slogan of this conference is “Get together – think together” to highlight the significance to address important questions in inter- and transdisciplinary teams. While this is often proves a challenge in practice, it is all the more important to think beyond boundaries of distinct disciplines. This is particularily relevant when it comes to research areas that investigate the interplay between technology and human behavior. If those questions are not addressed from a holistic perspective, lots of hidden potentials remain uncovered. Many scholars are already adressing specific questions whitout beeing aware of related research from scholars in other disciplines. In particular, PhD candidates could benefit from additional opportunities to get in touch with other scholars and exchange ideas and initiate collaboration to enhance their research. Since a great amount of academic work necessitates cooperation, e.g. to write proposals, papers and grant applications, this kind of conferences could be an important part of scientific communities. For this volume, we are happy to include 15 research papers from 27 scholars and 4 different research institutes across all disciplines. We clustered the contributions in four sections: “Perspectives on Digital Health” (Part A), “Perspectives on Virtual Realities” (Part B), “Perspectives on Technology Use and Adoption” (Part C), and “Future Perspectives” (Part D). Part A covers four articles that focus on aspects related to digital health. Harder and Chavez (Digital Technology in Health Education? - Opportunities for New Mothers in Mexican Public Healthcare Services) investigate potentials of digital technologies in healthcare with a particular focus on the Mexican system. Knop (Methodological Implications of Research on Technology Use by Healthcare Professionals: A short Introduction to Multidimensional Scaling) illustrates the potential of using multidimensional scaling for scholars doing research in the healthcare domain. Müller (Exploring Emerging Patient Responsibilities in Telemedicine Use: An Empirical Study) explores responsibilities that come with telemedicine, building upon insights from qualitative interviews. Finally, Uhde et al. (Context Factors for Pro-Social Practices in Health Care) reflect on context factors that are relevant when it comes to the healthcare system. Part B consists of four contributions that are concerned with the role of virtual realitites. Ressing (Combining the Virtual Reality with Biofeedback – State of Research in Nutrition) reflects on potentials of the combination of virtual realities and biofeedback. With a particular emphasis on eye-tracking, Schlechtinger (What Are You Looking At? Using Eye Tracking to Improve Learning in Virtual Environments) discusses opportunities for learning that can be exploited using virtual realities. Weber (Exploring the Potential of Virtual Reality for Learning – A Systematic Literature Review) adds to this debate by providing the results of a systematic literature review on the potentials of virtual realities with regard to learning. Finally, Weigel (A Design Journey: Towards a Virtual Reality Simulation and Training Application) proposes a more practical perspective on VR by outlining a design journey that supports the design and evaluation of a VR setting. Part C addresses research questions related to technology adoption and use. Oschinsky et al. (Resist, or not to Resist, that is the Question: On the Status Quo Bias of Public Sector Employees When Dealing with Technology) reflect on the status quo bias and how this relates to technology resistance. Syed et al. (From Technology Adoption to Organizational Resilience: A Current Research Perspective) focus on the role of organizational resilience by reflecting on current research perspectives. Finally, Zeuge (The Sweet Escape – A Research Agenda on Escapism in Information Systems Research) suggests escapism as a new concept that can guide future scholars to better understand technology use. Finally, we have gathered four papers with are more general approach in Part D (“Future Perspectives”). Kelter (New Perspectives on Statistical Data Analysis: Challenges and Possibilities of Digitalization for Hypothesis Testing in Quantitative Research) critically reflects how quantititative research is conducted, highlighting potentials for future research. Klein (Reflective Practice in the Digital Age) discusses how the concept of reflective practice can be applied in the digital age. Klesel and Henseler (Emergence in Design Science Research) suggest how the concept of Emergence can be used to evaluate design artifacts. Finally, Schäfer (Developing a Smart City Strategy by use of St. Gallen Management Model focused in Smart Mobility and Smart Environment) investigates how smart city strategies can be derived from established management models. This conference was only possible with the support of many. We thank the Institute of Advanced Studies (FoKoS) for their support. In particular we thank Dr. Olaf Gauß, Vanessa Simon, Janine Taplan, Jonas Pees and Nick Brombach for ensuring a smooth conference. An academic conference only comes to life through the contributions of scholars. Therefore, we thank all the authors for submitting and presenting their research and for their active participation in the sessions. We hope that this collection contributes to a better dissemination of digitalization research across displinces and increases its visibility.
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Two paradigms characterize much of the research in the Information Systems discipline: behavioral science and design science. The behavioral-science paradigm seeks to develop and verify theories that explain or predict human or organizational behavior. The design-science paradigm seeks to extend the boundaries of human and organizational capabilities by creating new and innovative artifacts. Both paradigms are foundational to the IS discipline, positioned as it is at the confluence of people, organizations, and technology. Our objective is to describe the performance of design-science research in Information Systems via a concise conceptual framework and clear guidelines for understanding, executing, and evaluating the research. In the design-science paradigm, knowledge and understanding of a problem domain and its solution are achieved in the building and application of the designed artifact. Three recent exemplars in the research literature are used to demonstrate the application of these guidelines. We conclude with an analysis of the challenges of performing high-quality design-science research in the context of the broader IS community.
Article
The past decade has brought advanced information technologies, which include electronic messaging systems, executive information systems, collaborative systems, group decision support systems, and other technologies that use sophisticated information management to enable multiparty participation in organization activities. Developers and users of these systems hold high hopes for their potential to change organizations for the better, but actual changes often do not occur, or occur inconsistently. We propose adaptive structuration theory (AST) as a viable approach for studying the role of advanced information technologies in organization change. AST examines the change process from two vantage points: (1) the types of structures that are provided by advanced technologies, and (2) the structures that actually emerge in human action as people interact with these technologies. To illustrate the principles of AST, we consider the small group meeting and the use of a group decision support system (GDSS). A GDSS is an interesting technology for study because it can be structured in a myriad of ways, and social interaction unfolds as the GDSS is used. Both the structure of the technology and the emergent structure of social action can be studied. We begin by positioning AST among competing theoretical perspectives of technology and change. Next, we describe the theoretical roots and scope of the theory as it is applied to GDSS use and state the essential assumptions, concepts, and propositions of AST. We outline an analytic strategy for applying AST principles and provide an illustration of how our analytic approach can shed light on the impacts of advanced technologies on organizations. A major strength of AST is that it expounds the nature of social structures within advanced information technologies and the key interaction processes that figure in their use. By capturing these processes and tracing their impacts, we can reveal the complexity of technology-organization relationships. We can attain a better understanding of how to implement technologies, and we may also be able to develop improved designs or educational programs that promote productive adaptations.
Article
This article introduces four basic theories that may serve as building blocks for explaining processes of change in organizations: life cycle, teleology, dialectics, and evolution. These four theories represent different sequences of change events that are driven by different conceptual motors and operate at different organizational levels. This article identifies the circumstances when each theory applies and proposes how interplay among the theories produces a wide variety of more complex theories of change and development in organizational life.
Article
In this paper, I outline a perspective on organizational transformation which proposes change as endemic to the practice of organizing and hence as enacted through the situated practices of organizational actors as they improvise, innovate, and adjust their work routines over time. I ground this perspective in an empirical study which examined the use of a new information technology within one organization over a two-year period. In this organization, a series of subtle but nonetheless significant changes were enacted over time as organizational actors appropriated the new technology into their work practices, and then experimented with local innovations, responded to unanticipated breakdowns and contingencies, initiated opportunistic shifts in structure and coordination mechanisms, and improvised various procedural, cognitive, and normative variations to accommodate their evolving use of the technology. These findings provide the empirical basis for a practice-based perspective on organizational transformation. Because it is grounded in the micro-level changes that actors enact over time as they make sense of and act in the world, a practice lens can avoid the strong assumptions of rationality, determinism, or discontinuity characterizing existing change perspectives. A situated change perspective may offer a particularly useful strategy for analyzing change in organizations turning increasingly away from patterns of stability, bureaucracy, and control to those of flexibility, self-organizing, and learning.
Article
Despite its current popularity, “emergence” is a concept with a venerable history and an elusive, ambiguous standing in contemporary evolutionary theory. This paper briefly recounts the history of the term and details some of its current usages. Not only are there radically varying interpretations about how to define emergence but “reductionist” and “holistic” theorists hold very different views about the issue of causation. However, these two seemingly polar positions are not irreconcilable. Reductionism, or detailed analysis of the parts and their interactions, is essential for answering the “how” question in evolution—how does a complex living system work? But holism is equally necessary for answering the “why” question—why did a particular arrangement of parts evolve? In order to answer the “why” question, a broader, multi-leveled paradigm is required. The reductionist approach to explaining emergent complexity has entailed a search for underlying “laws of emergence.” In contrast, the “Synergism Hypothesis” focuses on the “economics”—the functional effects produced by emergent wholes and their selective consequences in evolutionary change. This paper also argues that emergent phenomena represent, in effect, a subset of a larger universe of cooperative, synergistic effects in the natural world. KeywordsEmergence–Evolution–Synergy
This paper contributes a deeper understanding of the concept of methodical information systems development. The method concept is an assumption underlying much of the research into systems analysis, design and implementation. A postmodern deconstruction technique is used to discover a deferred concept: amethodical systems development. The methodical and amethodical views are developed in terms of their assumptions and their ideal characteristics. Our understanding of these two opposing views of systems development is important as a means to refocus our aims in research, practice and education in information systems development.
Article
Using the example of a failed software implementation, we discuss the role of artifacts in shaping organizational routines. We argue that artifact-centered assumptions about design are not well suited to designing organizational routines, which are generative systems that produce recognizable, repetitive patterns of interdependent actions, carried out by multiple actors. Artifact-centered assumptions about design not only reinforce a widespread misunderstanding of routines as things, they implicitly embody a rather strong form of technological determinism. As an alternative perspective, we discuss the use of narrative networks as a way to conceptualize the role of human and non-human actants, and to represent the variable patterns of action that are characteristic of “live” routines. Using this perspective, we conclude with some suggestions on how to design organizational routines that are more consistent with their nature as generative systems.
Article
Design, design research, and design science have received increasing attention lately. This has led to a more scientific focus on design that then has made it timely to reconsider our definitions of the design theory concept. Many scholars in Information Systems assume a design theory requires a complex and elaborate structure. While this structure has appeal for its completeness and complexity, it has led scholars to criticize simplicity and elegance in design science theories that fail to demonstrate the “required” elements. Such criticisms lead to questions about whether design theory can be considered theory at all. Based on a study of notable design writing in architecture, finance, management, cognitive psychology, computer science as well as information systems and the philosophy of science, the authors demonstrate that design theory consists of two parts: a design practice theory and an explanatory design theory. An explanatory design theory provides a functional explanation as to why a solution has certain components in terms of the requirements stated in the design. For explanatory design theory, only two elements are essentially necessary for a complete design theory: requirements and solution components. The argument is logical as well as empirical; the authors give examples of design theory drawing from IS as well as other design-related fields show how design theory can be both simple and complete. The paper concludes with a proposal for explanatory design theory.
Article
As user interactions have become more central to specific classes of information systems, design theorizing must expand to support the processes of interaction and the evolution of information systems. This theorizing goes beyond user-aided, participatory design to consider users as designers in their own right during the ongoing creation and recreation of information systems. Recent theorizing about an emerging class of tailorable systems proposes that such systems undergo an initial, primary design process where features are built in prior to general release. Following implementation, people engage in a secondary design process where functions and content emerge during interaction, modification, and embodiment of the system in use. This case study reveals that people are engaged designers, framed by dualities in behaviors including planned and emergent behaviors, and participatory and reifying behaviors. We contribute to design science research by extending work on tailorable systems, investigating processes of secondary design in a highly interactive system suited to support user engagement. We also contribute more broadly to design science research by explicitly extending behavioral aspects associated with the use of information system artifacts.
Article
Over the last three decades, a methodological pluralism has developed within information systems (IS) research. Various disciplines and many research communities as well, contribute to this discussion. However, working on the same research topic or studying the same phenomenon does not necessarily ensure mutual understanding. Especially within this multidisciplinary and international context, the epistemological assumptions made by different researchers may vary fundamentally. These assumptions exert a substantial impact on how concepts like validity, reliability, quality and rigour of research are understood. Thus, the extensive publication of epistemological assumptions is, in effect, almost mandatory. Hence, the aim of this paper is to develop an epistemological framework which can be used for systematically analysing the epistemological assumptions in IS research. Rather than attempting to identify and classify IS research paradigms, this research aims at a comprehensive discussion of epistemology within the context of IS. It seeks to contribute to building the basis for identifying similarities as well as differences between distinct IS approaches and methods. In order to demonstrate the epistemological framework, the consensus-oriented interpretivist approach to conceptual modelling is used as an example.
Article
The linguistic conceptual distinction between deep and surface structures offers an interesting metaphor for developing new theories of information systems. However, the deep structure notion is both richer and more strongly contested in the linguistic field than can be communicated in published articles about new theories of information systems. This article explores the deep structure notion more fully, how faithful information system (IS)-related articles adhere to the original concept and the implication of alternative linguistic theories for the IS field.
Article
The aim of this research essay is to examine the structural nature of theory in information systems. Despite the importance of theory, questions relating to its form and structure are neglected in comparison with questions relating to epistemology. The essay addresses issues of causality, explanation, prediction, and generalization that underlie an understanding of theory. A taxonomy is proposed that classifies information systems theories with respect to the manner in which four central goals are addressed: analysis, explanation, prediction, and prescription. Five interrelated types of theory are distinguished: (1) theory for analyzing, (2) theory for explaining, (3) theory for predicting, (4) theory for explaining and predicting, and (5) theory for design and action. Examples illustrate the nature of each theory type. The applicability of the taxonomy is demonstrated by classifying a sample of journal articles. The paper contributes by showing that multiple views of theory exist and by exposing the assumptions underlying different viewpoints. In addition, it is suggested that the type of theory under development can influence the choice of an epistemological approach. Support is given for the legitimacy and value of each theory type. The building of integrated bodies of theory that encompass all theory types is advocated.
Article
Employees in many contemporary organizations work with flexible routines and flexible technologies. When those employees find that they are unable to achieve their goals in the current environment, how do they decide whether they should change the composition of their routines or the materiality of the technologies with which they work? The perspective advanced in this paper suggests that the answer to this question depends on how human and material agencies – the basic building blocks common to both routines and technologies – are imbricated. Imbrication of human and material agencies creates infrastructure in the form of routines and technologies that people use to carry out their work. Routine or technological infrastructure used at any given moment is the result of previous imbrications of human and material agencies. People draw on this infrastructure to construct a perception that a technology either constrains their ability to achieve their goals, or that the technology affords the possibility of achieving new goals. The case of a computer simulation technology for automotive design is used to illustrate this framework suggests that perceptions of constraint leads people to change their technologies while perceptions of affordance lead people to change their routines. I use this imbrication metaphor to suggest how a human agency approach to technology can usefully incorporate notions of material agency into its explanations of organizational change.
Article
Design work and design knowledge in Information Systems (IS) is important for both research and practice. Yet there has been comparatively little critical attention paid to the problem of specifying design theory so that it can be communicated, justified, and developed cumulatively. In this essay we focus on the structural components or anatomy of design theories in IS as a special class of theory. In doing so, we aim to extend the work of Walls, Widemeyer and El Sawy (1992) on the specification of information systems design theories (ISDT), drawing on other streams of thought on design research and theory to provide a basis for a more systematic and useable formulation of these theories. We identify eight separate components of design theories: (1) purpose and scope, (2) constructs, (3) principles of form and function, (4) artifact mutability, (5) testable propositions, (6) justificatory knowledge (kernel theories), (7) principles of implementation, and (8) an expository instantiation. This specification includes components missing in the Walls et al. adaptation of Dubin (1978) and Simon (1969) and also addresses explicitly problems associated with the role of instantiations and the specification of design theories for methodologies and interventions as well as for products and applications. The essay is significant as the unambiguous establishment of design knowledge as theory gives a sounder base for arguments for the rigor and legitimacy of IS as an applied discipline and for its continuing progress. A craft can proceed with the copying of one example of a design artifact by one artisan after another. A discipline cannot.
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A high-level phenomenon is strongly emergent with respect to a lowlevel domain when the high-level phenomenon arises from the low-level domain, but truths concerning that phenomenon are not deducible even in principle from truths in the low-level domain. Strong emergence is the notion of emergence that is most common in philosophical discussions of emergence, and is the notion invoked by the British emergentists of the 1920s. A high-level phenomenon is weakly emergent with respect to a lowlevel domain when the high-level phenomenon arises from the low-level domain, but truths concerning that phenomenon are unexpected given the principles governing the low-level domain. Weak emergence is the notion of emergence that is most common in recent scientific discussions of emergence, and is the notion that is typically invoked by proponents of emergence in complex systems theory. In a way, the philosophical morals of strong emergence and weak emergence are diametrically opposed.