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Everything flows: studying continuous socio-technological transformation in a fluid and dynamic digital world

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>31/03/2021
<mark>Journal</mark>MIS Quarterly
Issue number1
Volume45
Number of pages30
Pages (from-to)423-452
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Abstract

Ongoing digital innovations are transforming almost every aspect of our contemporary societies—rendering our lives and work evermore fluid and dynamic. This paper is an invitation to likewise remake our theorizing of socio-technological transformation by shifting from actor-centric orientations towards a flow-oriented approach and vocabulary. Such a shift from actors to the flows of action allows us to offer an innovative theory of socio-technological transformation that does not rely on self-contained actors or technologies as originators of transformation. Instead, it allows us to foreground how contingent confluences among heterogenous flows of action can account for the trajectories of socio-technological (trans)formation, both upstream and downstream. To do this, we turn to the work of social anthropologist Tim Ingold to advance a theoretical vocabulary of flowing lines of action and their correspondences. We expound three modalities of correspondence, namely: timing, attentionality, and undergoing, which together explain the dynamics of creation, sensing, and actualization of (trans)formative possibilities for action along socio-technological flows. We demonstrate the application and utility of this vocabulary through an empirical illustration and show how it reveals novel insights for IS research vis-à-vis existing theoretical alternatives. Finally, we outline the implications of our approach for IS research and suggest some guiding principles for studying and theorizing IS phenomena through this orientation. We invite the IS community to engage with our approach to develop novel ways of understanding and theorizing IS phenomena along our increasingly fluid and dynamic digital world, ever overflowing.