Extended Generativity Theory on Digital Platforms

Daniel Fürstenau*, Abayomi Baiyere, Kai Schewina, Matthias Schulte-Althoff, Hannes Rothe

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The assumption that generativity engenders unbounded growth has acquired an almost taken-for-granted position in information systems and management literature. Against this premise, we examine the relationship between generativity and user base growth in the context of a digital platform. To do this, we synthesize the literature on generativity into two views, social interaction (expansion of ecosystem boundaries) and product view (expansion of product boundaries), that jointly and individually relate to user base growth. Both views help us explain how opening a platform relates to the emergence and resolution of conflicting expectations in a platform ecosystem that result in new functions and expanded use. We adopt a panel vector autoregressive approach combining data from six large transaction platforms that engaged with open-source developer communities. We found that the dominant narrative of generativity engendering growth, although generally supported by our analysis, obscures the fact that the inverse is also true; that is, growth can lead to expansion of product boundaries (inverse generativity) and that generativity can be bounded; that is, growth can stabilize ecosystem boundaries (bounded generativity). Against this background, we propose an extended generativity theory that presents generativity and growth in an integrative view and raises awareness about the limitations of the “unbounded growth” claim. We conclude that there is value in separating the two views of generativity conceptually and analytically, along with their relationship to user base growth, and we call for research on the pathways through which generativity produces growth.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInformation Systems Research
Number of pages25
Publication statusPublished - 17 Mar 2023

Bibliographical note

Epub ahead of print. Published online: 17 March 2023


  • Digital platforms
  • Generativity
  • User base growth
  • Product boundaries
  • Ecosystems boundaries
  • Dynamic boundary

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