Criticality and Values in Digital Transformation Research: Insights from a Workshop

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Digital transformation can positively or negatively contribute to societies, organizations, and individuals depending on the values inscribed in the underlying digital technologies. This highlights the importance for researchers to critically examine digital technologies’ value inscriptions, how technology use enacts these values and the bearing of these values on research. This paper draws on the pre-ICIS 2022 IFIP 8.2 OASIS workshop on “Criticality and Values in Digital Transformation Research" to highlight four ways researchers can practice criticality, that is, how they can identify and reflect on the values that underlie digital phenomena. The types of criticality are phenomenon-based, method-based, theory-based, and self-reflexive criticality. Criticality alone does not constitute critical social research. However, criticality sensitizes researchers to consciously engage with values, which can feed into critical research’s elements of insight, critique, and transformation. Criticality can inform insight by surfacing values; providing the basis for critique by confronting readers with alternative values; and supporting transformation by proposing alternative value inscriptions. Hence, we take criticality as pivotal for understanding how digital transformation can contribute to building a better world and we invite the IS community to practice and discuss criticality, values, and reflexivity to drive positive change.

Original languageEnglish
Article number41
JournalCommunications of the Association for Information Systems
Pages (from-to)964-983
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank all workshop participants and the keynote speakers, Brit Ross Winthereik and Jannis Kallinikos, for their thought-provoking and engaging presentations and discussions as well as their comments on this report’s draft. We are indebted to Jonna Järveläinen for graciously agreeing at short notice to facilitate one of the round table sessions. We are grateful to Matthew Jones and Benjamin Mueller who supported the workshop and guided us in its preparation. We also thank the Association for Information Systems and the IT-University Copenhagen, especially Oliver Krancher for his ground support. We express our deep appreciation to all who contributed to making this workshop a fruitful and thought-provoking event and thank the authors for their permission to use excerpts from their submissions in this report.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 by the Association for Information Systems.