Digital “x”—Charting a Path for Digital-Themed Research

Abayomi Baiyere, Varun Grover, Kalle J. Lyytinen, Stephanie Woerner, Alok Gupta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


As of late, the use of “digital” as a qualifier to established research concepts is increasing. However, we have yet to clearly establish what makes a “digital x” concept distinct from an “IT x” concept when “x” stands for well-established concepts such as strategy, infrastructure, innovation, or transformation, among others. In this paper, we review the need for, and merit of, labeling focal concepts in our field as “digital x” in contrast to using the dominant, incumbent label of “IT x.” We position the shift as a call to attend to new salient features that characterize contemporary settings of information technology use and its effects. Recognizing this need, we develop guidelines for future research by arguing what novel phenomena the label of “digital x” foregrounds and how insights gained through such foregrounding contribute to scholarship in ways that the term “IT x” does not. By doing so, this paper promotes clarity for the use of the digital x concepts and introduces explicit guidelines to delineate between the nascent stream of digital x research and established modes of IT x research. We hope that the essay helps information systems scholars and scholars in neighboring disciplines attending to digital phenomena identify novel research opportunities grounded on sound conceptual foundations that will foster cumulative generation of knowledge around digital x.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalInformation Systems Research
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements ? The Universiti Malaya Frontier Research Grant (FRG) ? ? ? ? ?FG ? fin? an? cia-ll? y supApFoRrt? ed this work ? The authors thank the Dean ? Faculty of Science ? and[9] the Head, Institute of Biological Sciences, Universiti Malaya, for providing the necessary facilities ?

Funding Information:
The authors acknowledge the sharp and constructive guidance of the senior editor and his support in shaping this paper. Appreciation also goes to the anonymous associate editor and Reviewer 1, whose comments on the first round of the paper gave the paper its current direction. In the same light, they owe Reviewer 2 and Reviewer 3 much gratitude for their constructive and encouraging comments that have proved developmental in advancing the paper to its current state. Although anonymous, the review team deserves much credit for their immense role in shaping the paper’s message. The authors also acknowledge colleagues and friends who have contributed in elevating their thinking as they developed the ideas in this paper: Nicholas Berente, Jeanne Ross, Gabriele Piccoli, Heli B, and Youngjin Yoo. Many thanks go to the participants of International Conference of Information Systems 2017 Digital x panel, Academy of Management 2019 Digital x Symposium, AoM 2019 Digital Practice Paper Development Workshop, and International Society of Professional Innovation Management 2022 Digital x panel. The authors also appreciate the insightful comments received during the presentation of the message of the paper to practitioners and at the University of Turku (Inforte), University of Manchester, Loughborough University, Leuphania University, University of Cologne, RMIT University, Deakin University, University of South Florida Tampa, Concordia University, and University of New South Wales, among others.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Author(s)


  • conceptual clarity
  • context shifts
  • digital x
  • digitalization
  • digitization
  • guidelines
  • information systems (IS) theory
  • IT x


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