Digital Infrastructures: The Missing IS Research Agenda

David Tilson*, Kalle Lyytinen, Carsten Sørensen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Since the inauguration of information systems research (ISR) two decades ago, the information systems (IS) field's attention has moved beyond administrative systems and individual tools. Millions of users log onto Facebook, download iPhone applications, and use mobile services to create decentralized work organizations. Understanding these new dynamics will necessitate the field paying attention to digital infrastructures as a category of IT artifacts. A state-of-the-art review of the literature reveals a growing interest in digital infrastructures but also confirms that the field has yet to put infrastructure at the centre of its research endeavor. To assist this shift we propose three new directions for IS research: (1) theories of the nature of digital infrastructure as a separate type of IT artifact, sui generis; (2) digital infrastructures as relational constructs shaping all traditional IS research areas; (3) paradoxes of change and control as salient IS phenomena. We conclude with suggestions for how to study longitudinal, large-scale sociotechnical phenomena while striving to remain attentive to the limitations of the traditional categories that have guided IS research.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInformation Systems Research
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)748-759
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Control points
  • Digital infrastructure
  • Generativity
  • IS research agenda
  • IT artifact

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