Meet an IS Scholar: Interview with Sirkka Jarvenpaa

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It is our pleasure to introduce a new OCIS Video Series titled “Meet an IS Scholar.” As part of this video series, we will feature senior scholars who are willing to share their wealth of experience with the OCIS research community in an informal and engaging way. These videos are meant to inspire OCIS members and reinforce a sense of community. While we produce these videos with the OCIS student community in mind, we hope that they will appeal to a broader audience.

Our inaugural video in this series features an interview with Sirkka Jarvenpaa, Professor at The University of Texas at Austin, at the 2018 Meeting of the Academy of Management in Chicago, IL. The interview consists of two parts:

  1. In the first part (8m39s), Sirkka shares some interesting anecdotes from her career in IS, her perspective on the state of IS research, and her thoughts on where the field might be going.
  2. In the second part (6m50s), Sirkka provides advice on how to successfully complete a Ph.D. and enter the job market, along with other career-related thoughts.

These videos were produced by Jean-Charles Pillet (Grenoble Ecole de Management) and Maheshwar Boodraj (Georgia State University), OCIS Student Representatives-at-Large, as part of the OCIS Video Series.

OCIS 2017 Best Student Paper Award

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Today, we are introducing a video in which Corinna Frey (Rotterdam School of Management) presents a paper written with Michael Barrett (Cambridge University) titled “A Pragmatic View on Multi-Sectoral Knowledge. Enacting Standardized Information Systems for Emergency Response”. In this video, Corinna shares insights from the paper, which received the OCIS 2017 Best Student Paper Award.

This video was produced by Jean-Charles Pillet (Grenoble Ecole de Management) and Maheshwar Boodraj (Georgia State University), OCIS Student Representatives-at-Large, as part of the OCIS Video Series.

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OCIS 2018 Keynote, featuring Sirkka Jarvenpaa (The University of Texas at Austin)

 Generativity in Data Infrastructures:

Exploring Tensions in Linked Health Data in Medical Genetics Initiatives

Sirkka at AoM

Summary by Jean-Charles Pillet and Maheshwar Boodraj,

OCIS Student Representatives-at-Large.

Medicine is at a turning point because of advances in the ways that we can handle large amounts of unstructured and semi-structured data. Hefty investments are being made in strategic initiatives aimed at developing a digital infrastructure for the collection, integration, and distribution of health data. Often coordinated by governments, these strategic initiatives involve a myriad of private actors who collectively contribute to shaping an infrastructure that will pave the way to new medical discoveries over the next 10 to 20 years. In the United States, the “Precision Medicine Initiative” (also known as the “All of Us” Research Program) is collecting genetic data, biological samples, and other information about the health of one million volunteers with the goals of better predicting disease risk, understanding how diseases occur, and improving diagnosis and treatment strategies. Our keynote speaker, Sirkka Jarvenpaa (The University of Texas at Austin), and her colleague M. Lynne Markus (Bentley University) are currently involved in six of these strategic medical genetic initiatives worldwide. During her keynote address, Sirkka highlighted several critical challenges that are currently being faced in this area.

While typical information systems projects focus on a defining and meeting a set of requirements to address a relatively known and bounded problem or set of problems, medical genetic initiatives require planning for problems which are totally unknown today. In this context, the challenge is to establish an open-ended infrastructure that will not hinder future discoveries for unforeseen uses and users but rather facilitate their emergence. Two additional difficulties arise with these large scale initiatives: the heterogeneity of the profiles of prospective users of the data who do not share a mental model, and the ever changing nature of these mental models. For example, disease or genomic categories are prone to change in areas of medical breakthrough. Consequently, discoveries that are made along the way may point to the importance of factors that might have been overlooked at the time when the initial scope of data collection was defined. Therefore, the very foundation upon which these infrastructures are built appear as ever-changing and largely unknown. This highly uncertain and unknown world represents a considerable challenge given what is at stake both financially and for our health.

Diverse membership in these programs is another intriguing aspect that the research has identified. There are many  groups of participants including private actors that make substantial investments in these initiatives, and volunteers who agree to share their personal data often for no benefit of their own. For private actors, success is far from guaranteed and it is uncertain what proportion of the 35,000 genome projects involving data infrastructures will remain 20 years from now. Whlle there is much entrepreneurial energy devoted in these strategic initiatives, their financial sustainability is a very long road indeed.  These programs require long term engagement from actors who do not have a clear idea of the results they will yield, even under conditions of success. The strategic initiatives are also dependent on major culture change particularly in terms of data reuse.  Traditionally scientists have secured cohorts and collected their own data and built their reputations on such data. Researchers who rely on   datasets of others, so called   “data parasites,” have been viewed as free-riders. Yet, these “data parasites” are exactly what is needed to maximize value from the data investments. The error prone nature of the data and challenges in data updating were also mentioned.    Many  tensions surround the data governance of the initiatives.

Societal trends are also critical for success. Such trends will influence the quantity of the data that is being collected: without the consent of participants to voluntarily share sensitive information, such initiatives would remain wishful thinking. Yet major obstacles to participation arise when neither the question of who will be able to access the data nor what it will be used for can be defined. Such uncertainties could deter volunteers from participating in these programs or prompt them to quit after a few years. This poses a considerable challenge given that the success of these initiatives requires the long-term commitment of its participants to be successful.

In closing, Sirkka outlined what she and Lynne have discovered so far. They observed that successful initiatives tend to have high degrees of control over the data they collect, for example, allowing access to the data but denying the ability to download or manipulate it. While this strong sense of control might prove beneficial in the short term, it could impede scientific advances over the long run. Indeed, when designing for generativity, relational aspects where unexpected combinations are made are more important than the sheer amount of data collected. This will be a key challenge in contexts dominated by protective data controls. These large scale data collection initiatives continue to struggle  how to balance the ethical concerns of obtaining broad consent  in an open-ended program but at the same time informing participants about how their personal data is most likely to be used and who is most likely to derive value from it.

While there is much to be learnt from these six initiatives, which are still at a nascent stage, the many insightful questions posed by the keynote participants show that much is still unknown about generativity in data infrastructures.

2018 OCIS Keynote Featuring Sirkka Jarvenpaa

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Generativity in Data Infrastructures: Exploring Tensions in Linked Health Data in Medical Genetics Initiatives

(joint work with M. Lynne Markus, Bentley University)

Digitization has become nearly synonymous with generativity in the information systems literature and more broadly in organizational research addressing digital infrastructures and platforms. Generativity is associated with growth, and fluid and porous boundaries that engender new unforeseen uses and users. Various material and immaterial properties of digitization have been associated with generativity. Yet, data itself and particularly data use has received limited attention in generativity discussions.  The presentation explores generativity from the data perspective.  Specific examples relate to linked health data infrastructures that are being built in various medical genetic initiatives that combine genetic data with health, real world behavioral and sensor data. We examine a number of tensions in these emerging data infrastructures including value capture from data vs. technology, short-term vs. long-term goals, local vs. national vs. global, public vs. private holders/guardians, and centralized vs. distributed design. The return from massive public and private investments in these initiatives requires a better understanding of these tensions and how they both increase and limit data generativity.


Please join us on Monday August 13th, at 4:45pm, Swissotel Chicago, Zurich D.

OCIS Mission statement and renaming strategic exercise

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Dear OCIS members,

As many of you know, for the last two and a half years the division has engaged in an important strategic exercise to update its mission statement and perhaps as well change its name to reflect important new trends in scholarship and practice of great importance to our division members.

Here is an update on the progress of this important initiative, and to ask for your feedback on it.

Last year, a poll of the OCIS membership indicated that a new name could be useful. The most popular proposed name was: Communication, Technology, and Organizing (CTO), with 43% of the votes. Of note, though, 35% of survey respondents expressed an interest in keeping the current name for the division.

This year, to continue this important work, a task force was created, with the following members:

Abayomi Baiyere, Michael Barrett, Maria Binz-Scharf, Sabine Brunswicker, Jennifer Gibbs, Steven Johnson, Marco Marabelli, Likeobe Maruping, Molly Wasko, and Mary-Beth Watson Manheim.

Thank you all for your participation and great ideas!

Upon meetings and discussions, the task force concurred with the results of last year’s poll and considered that CTO would be a promising new name for the division. In addition, it worked well and hard to propose the following new mission statement for the division:

The Communication, Technology, and Organizing (CTO) [or Organizational Communication and Information Systems (OCIS)] Division of the Academy of Management (AOM) promotes an interdisciplinary approach to further the understanding of the behavioral, social, and economic processes at the intersection of communication, technology, and organizing.

It constitutes a vibrant, inclusive, and intellectually stimulating community, open to scholars from a wide range of disciplines, theoretical frameworks, and research methods, who are conducting cutting-edge research based on rigorous and creative scholarship.

Major topics of interest include: Organizational communication, information systems, distributed work, information and communication technologies, knowledge and innovation processes, organizational design and strategy, and IT impacts and outcomes.

Examples of submissions included in past programs have been related to, among others:  the changing nature of work, digital transformation, social networks, virtual teams, digital platforms, management of information systems, online communities, user-generated content and social media, big data, processes of digitalization, knowledge work, organizational innovation, organizational change, globalization, new organizational forms, IT diffusion and infrastructure, sharing economy, the quantified self. The CTO [or OCIS] Division is open to multiple methods and theories.

CTO [or OCIS]: Come for the research, stay for the network!

For comparison purposes, below is the current mission statement, last updated in 2003:

“OCIS focuses on the study of behavioral, economic, and social aspects of communication and information systems within and among organizations or institutions. Major topics include: interpersonal communication; verbal, nonverbal, and electronic communication; vertical, horizontal and diagonal communication; inter-group and intra-group communication; communication networks; applications of information technology in business and society; organizational adoption of communication and information technology; communication and information strategy and policy; communication and organizational culture; communication and information research methodology; managing information technology services; virtual teams, virtual work, and virtual organizations; the management of information systems professionals; e-communications; information systems development; managing IT-related organizational change; e-business, e-commerce, and e-markets; electronic value systems, value chains, and value webs; privacy and ethics; knowledge work, knowledge workers, and knowledge networks; IT infrastructure; governance of IT services; and organizational networks.”

At this point, it is crucial that all OCIS members provide their input on these developments:

* What do you think of the proposed name change for the division?

* What do you think of the proposed new mission statement for the division?

To make it easy for you to provide this feedback, we have created a short survey, available at:

Your participation and input regarding the proposed changes by June 24th will be invaluable for the division: thank you very much in advance!