Work in the Age of Intelligent Machines: Towards Disciplinary Convergence

2018 - 08 - 11
The Professional Development Workshop (PDW) Work in the Age of Intelligent Machines: Towards Disciplinary Convergence was held at the Academy of Management Annual Meeting on 11 August 2018 in Chicago, USA. The PDW explored ways in which human work and occupations will be changed as artificial intelligence becomes more increasingly prevalent in the workplace. The PDW was a part of a series of workshops funded by a National Science Foundation (NSF) convergence grant on the future of work. A range of academic, industry, and government participants engaged in collective identification of key research questions which merit further study.


Artificial intelligence and machine learning are becoming increasingly prevalent in the workplace. While much media and academic attention has focused on forecasts of the displacement of workers, less attention has focused on ways AI might change the nature of work, and in particular ways AI might generate new jobs or mitigate the displacement of workers.

The PDW was part of a series of workshops supported by a National Science Foundation sponsored Research Coordination Network on Work in the Age of Intelligent Machines. It brought together more than 50 researchers from academia, government and industry to address the future of work by identifying key research questions on the topic which merit further study.

The PDW started with a keynote address from Debaleena Chattopadhyay, Department of Computer Science, University of Illinois—Chicago on the topic Virtual Characters in Health-Related Assessments and Interventions: Some Sociotechnical Implications. The goal of the keynote was to provide a common example of an application of AI (a virtual character, i.e., an animated human figure capable of natural language spoken dialogue) to ground the following discussions.

PDW participants then worked individually in a shared document to brainstorm possible research questions (the document is available at These questions were grouped into a number of higher-level themes: design and impacts of virtual characters in particular; approaches for translating what we know about work into system design; impacts on individual workers, team processes and design, work practices, jobs and careers, education, organizations and society; division of labour in developing systems; legal, policy, critical and ethical questions; and questions about research methodology.

A sampling of proposed research questions across these topics includes:

  • How will AI systems change interpersonal relationships at work?
  • What happens to creativity in the workplace with such systems?
  • What are the implications for power and control?
  • What roles in teams could be effectively filled by an intelligent system?
  • Which industries will be most affected?
  • If systems can perform entry-level work, what positions will be available for humans entering a profession? How will newcomers learn the necessary skills?
  • How is work on intelligent systems being funded and performed, and what are the implications of this for work involving these systems? Who decides what is automated and what assumptions drive these decisions?
  • How can systems be monitored for errors?
  • Who is accountable for errors made by an AI system?
  • What are the implications of increased system capabilities for needed or valued human skills?

The brainstorming exercise was followed by small group discussions of a few of these themes: impact of technology on work systems; impact on individual workers; jobs/careers and education; implications for system development and deployment; and system design.

Overall, the PDW on Work in the Age of Intelligent Machines raised a variety of important questions that necessitate further research, so that we may be proactive in addressing human work and occupational changes as AI becomes increasingly ubiquitous in the workplace. As part of a series of NSF workshops on the future of work, the community can expect these ideas to be further discussed and explored in other community events.

By Kevin Crowston, Mary-Beth Watson-Manheim, Ingrid Erickson, Jeffrey V. Nickerson

Kevin Crowston is a Distinguished Professor and Ingrid Erickson is an Assistant Professor, both in the Syracuse University School of Information Studies. Mary Beth Watson-Manheim is a Professor in the College of Business Administration, University of Illinois—Chicago. Jeffrey V. Nickerson is a professor in the School of Business at Stevens Institute of Technology.

OCIS 2017 Best Student Paper Award

2019 - 03 - 19
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.

OCIS 2016 PhD Doctoral Consortium

2016 - 08 - 06
OCIS PhD Doctoral Consortium 2016 Participants

OCIS PhD Doctoral Consortium, August 5 2016, Anaheim, CA

OCIS PhD Doctoral Consortium, August 5 2016, Anaheim, CA

OCIS 2015 Best Paper Finalists

2015 - 08 - 03
The List of Best Paper Finalists





  • Information technology and innovation outputs: The missing link of search evolution by John Qi Dong, Prasanna Karharde, Arun Rai, and Sean Xin Xu [Session time and location: Monday 8 – 9:30AM Vancouver Convention Center 206; Tweet about this session using #AOM2015 923]
  • Towards an open source software development lifecycle by Aron Lindberg, Nicholas Berente, and Kalle Lyytinen[Session time: Monday 11:30AM – 1PM Vancouver Convention Center 209; Tweet about this session using #AOM2015 1130]


  • Interplay between social structure and knowledge reuse in open innovation communities by Mahmood Shafeie Zargar and Corey Phelps [Session time and location: Monday 1:15 – 2:45PM Vancouver Convention Center 206; Tweet about this session using #AOM2015 1249]
  • Drivers and effects of the utilization of supply chain technology by Zhongzhi Liu, Daniel Prajogo and Adegoke Oke [Session time and location: Tuesday 3 – 4:30PM Vancouver Convention Center 206; Tweet about this session using #AOM2015 2116]

Escher, Algorithms and Decisions made behind Closed Servers

2015 - 11 - 05
The guest speaker for 2015 in Vancouver was Prof. Wanda Orlikowski (MIT) who needs no introduction. The title of her talk – “Performing Research, Researching Performativity” – might be economic in words, but as one could expect from Prof. Orlikowski, deep in content (and even a little humorous).


Monday might not be a very popular day during the whole year, but at the Academy it must be one of the most popular ones. For OCIS, it is a packed day full of interesting presentations, which often finishes with a triple event involving a brilliant keynote, followed by the division business meeting and the official reception. And this year in Vancouver it was no different. More than presenting a single paper or research in progress, keynotes provide speakers an opportunity to make connections across different stages in their career and synthesize years of research in a little more than one hour.

Prof. Orlikowski started the talk by introducing four different phenomena, with no apparent commonality, such as the kidney exchange program, the New London Cafe, eBooks and bottled orange juice. But when guided by her train of thought, the connection between these four phenomena become apparent: “they only exist because of the operation of complex algorithms and large-scale heterogeneous data with multiple, distributed infrastructure involving networked, digital platforms.” Got it?

If not, fortunately she was there to provide more context: these algorithmic phenomena are different than those that existed in the past for a number of reasons. And these differences make our old methods of research obsolete if we want to understand what is going on. We can do an ethnography and observe people in meetings, but we can’t observe code that is running on distributed servers. Not only are algorithmic phenomenon inscrutable, they are also highly dynamic and contingent on execution.

So how to study them?

Before she provided her take on the answer, she walked us through her own trajectory and the different turns she has taken over her career. This walkthrough of her career – papers and studies that the audience knew quite well – was beautifully illustrated with her personal account of where her thinking was at the time.

Her way of illustrating these different “explorations,” as she called them, was simple, yet powerful. Through drawings from Dutch graphic artist M. C. Escher, she walked us through her first turn on the “significance of the social.” By studying interpretations, interactions and emergence, she was interested in change that is almost imperceptible when it happens, but that slowly becomes substantial over time, like the image below:


Her second turn was focused on exploring the “primacy of practice,” on paying attention to how phenomena are enacted through everyday action. As an example, she shared a study that examined the proliferation of mobile email and found how the everyday communication activities of professionals enacted, over time, a collective shift in professional norms and identities that required them to be available all the time. She found inspiration once more in an Escher drawing that highlights the importance of practice in producing reality:


And finally back to her most recent exploration, she focused on how “materiality matters.” While her earlier work had highlighted that the “IT Artefact” was typically missing from previous theories, she now believed – pointing to the algorithmic phenomena she cited at the beginning of the talk – that drawing clear boundaries between use and artefact was not feasible. She argued that we need new kinds of research approaches. Because algorithmic phenomena are too complex and dynamic to be effectively studied by a single apparatus, we also need multiple, diverse new tools. Citing Annamarie Mol, she argued that the point is not to capture reality “as it really is,” but to realize that the world is a becoming. In other words, she invited the audience to shift our understanding of these phenomena and be open to emergent possibilities.

Thanking the Canadian hospitality, she concluded by quoting a line from a Leonard Cohen song (from the aptly titled album: The Future) that goes: “forget your perfect offering, there is a crack in everything, that is how the light gets in.”

By Diego Mastroianni and Claire Ingram, OCIS Student Representatives