Seizing the Opportunity: Towards a Historiography of Information Systems

Journal of Information Technology, Forthcoming

55 Pages Posted: 1 May 2012

Date Written: February 28, 2012


Historical perspectives are only timidly entering the world of IS research compared to historical research in management or organization studies. If major IS outlets have already published history-oriented papers, the number of historical papers - although increasing - remains low. We carried out a thematic analysis of all papers on History and IS published between 1972 and 2009 indexed on ABI and papers indexed in Google ScholarTM for the same period. We used a typology developed by theorists Usdiken and Kieser (2004) who classify historical organisation research into supplementarist, integrationist and reorientationist approaches. We outline their links with the epistemological stances well known in IS research, positivism, interpretivism and critical research; we then focus on their differences and historiographical characteristics. We found that most IS History papers are supplementarist descriptive case studies with limited uses of History. This paper then suggests that IS research could benefit from adopting integrationist and reorientationist historical perspectives and we offer some examples to illustrate how that would contribute to enriching, extending and challenging existing theories.

Keywords: IS history, historiography, historical methods, historical organization theory

Suggested Citation

Mitev, Nathalie N. and de Vaujany, Francois-Xavier, Seizing the Opportunity: Towards a Historiography of Information Systems (February 28, 2012). Journal of Information Technology, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN:

Nathalie N. Mitev (Contact Author)

King's College London ( email )

London, England WC2R 2LS
United Kingdom

Francois-Xavier De Vaujany

Université Paris-Dauphine ( email )

Place du Maréchal de Lattre de Tassigny
Paris, 75016


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