As of late, the use of ‘digital’ as a qualifier to established research concepts has been increasing. However, we have yet to clearly establish what makes a ‘digital x’ concept distinct from an ‘IT x’ concept, where ‘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, labelling 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 IS 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’.
Bibliographical notePublished online: 23 Feb 2023.
- Digital x
- IT x
- Conceptual clarity
- Information systems (IS) theory
- Context shifts