IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Research Commentary: Desperately Seeking the “IT” in IT Research—A Call to Theorizing the IT Artifact


  • Wanda J. Orlikowski

    () (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02142)

  • C. Suzanne Iacono

    () (National Science Foundation, Arlington, Virginia 22230)


The field of information systems is premised on the centrality of information technology in everyday socio-economic life. Yet, drawing on a review of the full set of articles published in Information Systems Research ( ISR ) over the past ten years, we argue that the field has not deeply engaged its core subject matter—the information technology (IT) artifact. Instead, we find that IS researchers tend to give central theoretical significance to the context (within which some usually unspecified technology is seen to operate), the discrete processing capabilities of the artifact (as separable from its context or use), or the dependent variable (that which is posited to be affected or changed as technology is developed, implemented, and used). The IT artifact itself tends to disappear from view, be taken for granted, or is presumed to be unproblematic once it is built and installed. After discussing the implications of our findings, we propose a research direction for the IS field that begins to take technology as seriously as its effects, context, and capabilities. In particular, we propose that IS researchers begin to theorize specifically about IT artifacts, and then incorporate these theories explicitly into their studies. We believe that such a research direction is critical if IS research is to make a significant contribution to the understanding of a world increasingly suffused with ubiquitous, interdependent, and emergent information technologies.

Suggested Citation

  • Wanda J. Orlikowski & C. Suzanne Iacono, 2001. "Research Commentary: Desperately Seeking the “IT” in IT Research—A Call to Theorizing the IT Artifact," Information Systems Research, INFORMS, vol. 12(2), pages 121-134, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:orisre:v:12:y:2001:i:2:p:121-134

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Daniel Robey & Marie-Claude Boudreau, 1999. "Accounting for the Contradictory Organizational Consequences of Information Technology: Theoretical Directions and Methodological Implications," Information Systems Research, INFORMS, vol. 10(2), pages 167-185, June.
    2. Gerardine DeSanctis & Marshall Scott Poole, 1994. "Capturing the Complexity in Advanced Technology Use: Adaptive Structuration Theory," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 5(2), pages 121-147, May.
    3. Cynthia Mathis Beath & Wanda J. Orlikowski, 1994. "The Contradictory Structure of Systems Development Methodologies: Deconstructing the IS-User Relationship in Information Engineering," Information Systems Research, INFORMS, vol. 5(4), pages 350-377, December.
    4. Wanda J. Orlikowski, 2000. "Using Technology and Constituting Structures: A Practice Lens for Studying Technology in Organizations," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 11(4), pages 404-428, August.
    5. Gary C. Moore & Izak Benbasat, 1991. "Development of an Instrument to Measure the Perceptions of Adopting an Information Technology Innovation," Information Systems Research, INFORMS, vol. 2(3), pages 192-222, September.
    6. M. Lynne Markus & Daniel Robey, 1988. "Information Technology and Organizational Change: Causal Structure in Theory and Research," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 34(5), pages 583-598, May.
    7. Joey F. George & George K. Easton & J. F. Nunamaker & Gregory B. Northcraft, 1990. "A Study of Collaborative Group Work With and Without Computer-Based Support," Information Systems Research, INFORMS, vol. 1(4), pages 394-415, December.
    8. Wanda J. Orlikowski, 1992. "The Duality of Technology: Rethinking the Concept of Technology in Organizations," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 3(3), pages 398-427, August.
    9. Daniel Robey & Sundeep Sahay, 1996. "Transforming Work Through Information Technology: A Comparative Case Study of Geographic Information Systems in County Government," Information Systems Research, INFORMS, vol. 7(1), pages 93-110, March.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:inm:orisre:v:12:y:2001:i:2:p:121-134. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Mirko Janc). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.