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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

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    Cited by:

    1. Zhaojun Yang & Jun Sun & Yali Zhang & Ying Wang, 0. "Peas and carrots just because they are green? Operational fit between green supply chain management and green information system," Information Systems Frontiers, Springer, vol. 0, pages 1-19.
    2. repec:spr:scient:v:87:y:2011:i:1:d:10.1007_s11192-010-0331-4 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. François-Xavier De Vaujany & Nathalie Mitev & Matthew Smith & Isabelle Walsh, 2017. "Renewing Literature Reviews in MIS Research? A Critical Realist Approach," Working Papers hal-01648133, HAL.
    4. repec:eee:crpeac:v:25:y:2014:i:8:p:743-756 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. repec:spr:infosf:v:10:y:2008:i:4:d:10.1007_s10796-008-9096-1 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. repec:eee:ijoais:v:12:y:2011:i:2:p:116-125 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. François-Xavier De Vaujany & Vladislav Fomin & Kalle Lyytinen & Stefan Haefliger, 2013. "Sociomaterial regulation in organizations: The case of information technology," Post-Print hal-01648122, HAL.
    8. repec:spr:scient:v:94:y:2013:i:3:d:10.1007_s11192-012-0807-5 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. repec:eee:ijoais:v:9:y:2008:i:3:p:135-153 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. repec:spr:infosf:v:9:y:2007:i:1:d:10.1007_s10796-006-9017-0 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Coronado Mondragon, Adrian E. & Coronado Mondragon, Christian E. & Coronado, Etienne S., 2017. "ICT adoption in multimodal transport sites: Investigating institutional-related influences in international seaports terminals," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 97(C), pages 69-88.
    12. repec:taf:oabmxx:v:3:y:2016:i:1:p:1259879 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. repec:eee:jbrese:v:89:y:2018:i:c:p:206-215 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. repec:spr:infosf:v:15:y:2013:i:4:d:10.1007_s10796-012-9342-4 is not listed on IDEAS
    15. repec:spr:infosf:v:20:y:2018:i:3:d:10.1007_s10796-016-9698-y is not listed on IDEAS
    16. repec:eee:ijoais:v:20:y:2016:i:c:p:16-25 is not listed on IDEAS
    17. repec:eee:tefoso:v:126:y:2018:i:c:p:53-63 is not listed on IDEAS


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