Complexity and Information Systems Research in the Emerging Digital World
MIS Quarterly, 44(1), pp. 1-17.
23 Pages Posted: 13 Mar 2020 Last revised: 9 Dec 2020
Date Written: February 16, 2020
Complexity is all around us in this increasingly digital world. Global digital infrastructure, social media, Internet of Things, robotic process automation, digital business platforms, algorithmic decision making, and other digitally enabled networks and ecosystems fuel complexity by fostering hyper-connections and mutual dependencies among human actors, technical artifacts, processes, organizations, and institutions. Complexity affects human agencies and experiences in all dimensions. Individuals and organizations turn to digitally-enabled solutions to cope with the wicked problems arising out of digitalization. In the digital world, complexity and digital solutions present new opportunities and challenges for information systems (IS) research. The purpose of this special issue is to foster the development of new IS theories on the causes, dynamics, and consequences of complexity in increasing digital sociotechnical systems. In this essay, we discuss the key theories and methods of complexity science, and illustrate emerging new IS research challenges and opportunities in complex sociotechnical systems. We also provide an overview of the five articles included in the special issue. These articles illustrate how IS researchers build on theories and methods from complexity science to study wicked problems in the emerging digital world. They also illustrate how IS researchers leverage the uniqueness of the IS context to generate new insights to contribute back to complexity science.
Keywords: Complexity, sociotechnical systems, emergence, coevolution, chaos, scalable dynamics, digitalization
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