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Call for Papers

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European Journal of Information Systems
Embracing Contrarian Thinking: Value-Reflexive Research for a Digital World 
Deadline: 2nd February 2024

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Guest editors:

Special Issue Overview

Digital technologies and our world are deeply enmeshed as they intricately intertwine, shaping our lives into a digital world. Digital technologies (e.g., artificial intelligence, blockchain, social media platforms, etc.) relate to values in overt and covert ways that either bolster or challenge these values (Rowe, 2018). We can observe this in research and practice, which tends to either celebrate the role of digital technologies in promoting economic growth and social well-being or demonize them for adverse effects and new types of risks. These contrasting perspectives create visions of utopian and dystopian digital worlds. While there is an abundance of these polarized and contrasting perspectives, we find that work considering and reflecting on the values underpinning these contrasting views on our digital world barely finds its way into mainstream Information Systems research. This is unfortunate because technological potency sets the stage for problematizing around the bearings of technology on our world (Conboy, 2019; Monteiro et al., 2022; Walsham, 2012). We invite researchers to embrace contrarian thinking (Nandhakumar, 2010) and take a value-reflexive perspective that examines and problematizes values in digital technology design, implementation, and use. Contrarian thinking refers to taking a different perspective and seeking alternative viewpoints that may contradict prevailing attitudes or trends in order to understand a phenomenon. In particular, we ask scholars, "Which values do we value?" and encourage them to collectively engage in reflection and action on how values underpin, inform, and perform the digital world in which we live.

The unquestioned and often hidden values inscribed in digital technology surface when we examine the intended and unintended effects (positive and negative) of technology (Tarafdar et al., 2015). For instance, always-on enables flexibility and autonomy but simultaneously has shown to distort images of the self and others (Prasopoulou, 2017). Artificial intelligence has potency to drive progress in society and economy, for instance, by helping people with disabilities, optimizing energy generation and consumption, or supporting the development of new drugs, while it can also fuel discrimination, undermine freedom of speech or disassemble entire democracies (Mikalef et al., 2022; Vassilakopoulou et al., 2022). All too often, digital technologies are built on the principle of privacy violation rather than of privacy as a basic human right, and security is used as an argument for enhanced surveillance and control rather than for human wellbeing and protection in the digital sphere (Cecez-Kecmanovic, 2019; Zuboff, 2015). At the same time, it is our responsibility as academics and citizens to tackle the social and environmental sustainability issues such as climate change, poverty and inequality in which digital technologies can have a pivotal and positive role (Henriksen et al., 2021; Melville, 2010; Zimmer & Järveläinen, 2022) but are also part of the issue they seek to address. These examples underpin the criticality of value positions – both hidden, or taken-for-granted, and explicit – for developing and leveraging digital technology in our world (Conboy, 2019; Stahl, 2012). For research to co-enact a better digital world (Walsham, 2012), we need to reflect on and problematize the values we help to inscribe, whether consciously or unconsciously (or intentionally/unintentionally) in technologies and their use. Unless exposed and problematised, these value positions, their relations, evolution over time, provenance, and origin remain hidden and find their way into informing subsequent research and practice on digital technology (Zimmer et al., 2022).

In this call, we ask researchers to employ contrarian thinking by reflecting and problematizing values underpinning and defining our digital world. We invite to take a value-reflexive perspective, and to ask "Which values do we value?", when investigating and theorising the dynamics around digital technologies. Specifically, we seek studies that exemplify how we as a community can engage with the values in digital technologies, their design, development, and use. Articles accepted to this special issue should have the potential to inform future Information Systems research on making a better world by understanding the values inscribed in digital technology and how these values enact our worlds through digital technology.

Illustrative focus areas
We welcome conceptual and empirical papers employing different theoretical perspectives, different levels (e.g., societal, organisational, group, individual, etc.) and methodologies including ethnographies, case studies, design science research, action research, mixed-method research and specifically critical approaches.

Some of the key topics we are interested in include (but are not limited to):

  • Value-reflexive research into digital transformation, artificial intelligence, privacy, cybersecurity, digital infrastructures, blockchain, social media and other digital technologies

  • Value-driven digital transformation of society, organisations and the individual

  • Values in digital innovation, business model design, business process design, data analytics, digital entrepreneurship, etc.

  • Values in designing, implementing and adopting digital technologies and policies for enacting cybersecurity, privacy, and data protection, etc.

  • Value positions in the design and development of digital technology

  • Values in the governance of digital technology (e.g., artificial intelligence, blockchain, digital infrastructures)

  • The role of values in user experience design and human computer interaction (e.g., nudging, persuasive design, universal design, value-sensitive design)

  • Societal, economical, institutional value structures and digital ecosystems, platforms, or infrastructures

  • Competing values in digital technologies at the societal, organisational or individual level

  • Contrarian thinking on digital disparities, e.g., digital divide, digital dignity and digital equality or in-equality

  • Value-washing (e.g., green-washing) in corporate digital responsibility, privacy, cybersecurity, business models, digital innovation and digital entrepreneurship

  • Manifestation of values in digital technology

  • Materialisation of values in digital technology

  • Theorising around values in digital phenomena

  • The socio-technical nature of values

Timeline and important dates:

  • Initial paper submission deadline: February 2, 2024

  • First round authors notification: May 10, 2024

  • Invited revisions deadline: September 10, 2024

  • Second round authors notification: November 30, 2024

  • Final revision deadline: February 28, 2025

  • Final authors notification: May 1, 2025

  • Projected publication: Autumn 2025

Associate editors

  • Abayomi Baiyere, Queen’s University, Smith School of Business

  • Amany Elbanna, Royal Holloway University of London

  • Cristina Alaimo, LUISS University Rome

  • Elena Parmiggiani, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)

  • Emmanuel Monod, Shanghai Jiaotong University

  • Frantz Rowe, University of Nantes

  • Jason Thatcher, Temple University, Fox School of Business

  • Jonna Järveläinen, University of Turku, Turku School of Economics

  • Kalina Staykova, Warwick Business School

  • Kalle Lyytinen, Case Western Reserve University

  • Maren Gierlich-Joas, University of Hamburg

  • Margunn Aanestad, University of Oslo

  • Matthew Jones, University of Cambridge

  • Matti Minkkinen, University of Turku, Turku School of Economics

  • Matti Rossi, Aalto University

  • Paul Drews, Leuphana University Lueneburg

  • Sandeep Purao, Bentley University

  • Ulrike Schultze, University of Groningen

Cecez-Kecmanovic, D. (2019). The resistible rise of the digital surveillance economy: A call for action. Journal of Information Technology, 34(1), 81–83.

Conboy, K. (2019). Being Promethean. European Journal of Information Systems, 28(2), 119–125.

Monteiro, E., Constantinides, P., Scott, S., Shaikh, M. & Burton-Jones, M. (2022). Qualitative Research Methods in Information Systems: A Call for Phenomenon-Focused Problematization. MIS Quarterly, 46(4), i–xviii.

Henriksen, H. Z., Thapa, D., & Elbanna, A. (2021). Sustainable Development Goals in IS research. Scandinavian Journal of Information Systems, 33(2), 97–102.

Melville. (2010). Information Systems Innovation for Environmental Sustainability. MIS Quarterly, 34(1), 1.

Mikalef, P., Conboy, K., Lundström, J. E., & Popovič, A. (2022). Thinking responsibly about responsible AI and ‘the dark side’ of AI. European Journal of Information Systems, 31(3), 257–268.

Nandhakumar, J. (2010). Contrarian information systems studies. European Journal of Information Systems, 19(6), 687–688.

Prasopoulou, E. (2017). A half-moon on my skin: A memoir on life with an activity tracker. European Journal of Information Systems, 26(3), 287–297.

Rowe, F. (2018). Being critical is good, but better with philosophy! From digital transformation and values to the future of IS research. European Journal of Information Systems, 27(3), 380–393.

Stahl, B. C. (2012). Responsible research and innovation in information systems. European Journal of Information Systems, 21(3), 207–211.

Tarafdar, M., D’Arcy, J., Turel, O., & Gupta, A. (2015). The dark side of information technology. MIT Sloan Management Review, 56(2), 61–70.

Vassilakopoulou, P., Parmiggiani, E., Shollo, A., & Grisot, M. (2022). Responsible AI: Concepts, critical perspectives and an Information Systems research agenda. Scandinavian Journal of Information Systems, 34(2), 89–112.

Walsham, G. (2012). Are We Making a Better World with Icts? Reflections on a Future Agenda for the IS Field. Journal of Information Technology, 27(2), 87–93.

Zimmer, M. P., Grisot, M., Vassilakopoulou, P., & Niemimaa, M. (2022). Call for Papers: Criticality and Values in Digital Transformation Research. IFIP 8.2 OASIS pre-ICIS 2022 Workshop, Copenhagen, DK.

Zimmer, M. P., & Järveläinen, J. (2022). Digital–Sustainable Co-transformation: Introducing the Triple Bottom Line of Sustainability to Digital Transformation Research. In D. Kreps, R. Davison, T. Komukai, & K. Ishii (Eds.), Human Choice and Digital by Default: Autonomy vs Digital Determination (Vol. 656, pp. 100–111). Springer International Publishing.

Zuboff, S. (2015). Big other: Surveillance Capitalism and the Prospects of an Information Civilization. Journal of Information Technology, 30(1), 75–89.

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