Organizations as Digital Enactment Systems: A Theory of Replacement of Humans by Digital Technologies in Organizational Scanning, Interpretation, and Learning

Ioanna Constantiou, Mayur Joshi, Marta Stelmaszak

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Digital transformation has become a dominant phenomenon of interest among information systems scholars. To account for the phenomenon, it is imperative to develop a theoretical understanding of its processes and objects. We adapt a seminal organizational theory that conceptualizes organizations as interpretation systems to a possible future of organizations. We theorize digital transformation as a progressive replacement of humans by digital technologies in performing an organization’s fundamental activities underpinning the processes of scanning, interpretation, and learning that encompass an organization’s interaction with its environment. As a result, organizations cease to be human interpretation systems, and instead turn into digital enactment systems where digital technologies, instead of humans, nearly autonomously create and act upon information. We illustrate this digital transformation theory using the example of high-frequency trading. This transformation redefines the relationship among organizations, information, and environment, changing the role of humans, and reshaping strategic decision-making. Thus conceived digital transformation offers a concrete way of theorizing and accounts for deep implications on the nature of organizations and organizing in the digital age.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1
JournalJournal of the Association for Information Systems
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)1770-1798
Number of pages29
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2023

Bibliographical note

Published online: June 08, 2023.


  • Digital transformation
  • Digital enactment
  • Organizational theory
  • Interpretation systems

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