Sub-theme 23: Digital Technology, Societal Change and Shifts in Institutional Logics

Isam Faik
Western University, Canada
Eivor Oborn
University of Warwick, United Kingdom
Patricia H. Thornton
Texas A&M University, USA, & HEC Paris, France

Call for Papers

Digital technologies are increasingly seen as a source of large-scale societal changes, including positive transformations and grand societal challenges. On the one hand, the incorporation of digital technologies in our modes for organizing social and economic activities is contributing to poverty alleviation (Jha et al., 2016), social inclusion (Andrade & Doolin, 2016), and increased political participation (Selander & Jarvenpaa, 2016). On the other hand, it is leading to higher levels of systemic risks (Tarafdar et al., 2013), lower standards in employment conditions (Brynjolfsson & McAfee, 2012), and the undermining of democratic processes (Allcott & Gentzkow, 2017).
Advancing a theoretical understanding of how large-scale societal changes are related to the materiality (Jones et al., 2017) of digital technologies requires attention to how technology is becoming integral to the wide range of institutional processes that define twenty-first century societies. In particular, understanding societal-level changes requires analyses of the ways technology is becoming a defining element of the institutional logics that shape individual cognition, action and evaluation in the different areas of social life (Faik et al., 2020). Such analyses enable us to explore how technology is altering the multiplicity of logics in different domains and generating new institutional arrangements. Further analyses can also help us explore how the multiplicity of institutional logics might shape and influence the way technologies become used, which goals are attended to, and which stakeholders or agents become more active in the process of societal change (Oborn et al., 2021). We need studies for example that investigate how and why some institutional logics are becoming more salient as a result of technological change while other logics are being undermined and silenced (Gawer & Phillips, 2013). Studies are needed to examine how technological change is increasing the compatibility of certain institutional logics while heightening the contradictions and tensions among others (Berente & Yoo, 2012).
Despite significant advances in theorizing technology as a carrier of institutions (Scott, 2013), the focus in the literature has been on institutional relationships at the organizational and inter-organizational levels (Winter et al., 2014). There is now a need for more studies that can enrich our theoretical repertoire for explaining the implications of technological change at the societal level. We need to advance our theorizing of the constitutive role of technology in large-scale societal changes, for example by enabling new actor constellations (Hining et al., 2018), rendering the availability, accessibility, and activation of certain logics (Gawer & Phillips, 2013), and linking collective action to new sources of meaning (Raviola & Norbak, 2013). This sub-theme aims to contribute to the development of our theoretical repertoire for studying the complex relationships between technology and societal change, along with its implications for individuals and organizations. We therefore call for empirical and conceptual papers that examine the relationship between technological change and the ongoing shifts in established institutional arrangements.
More specifically, we invite papers from a variety of methodological traditions, focusing on (but not limited to) the following issues:

  • How are emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, and the internet of things, challenging or reinforcing dominant institutional logics or activating previously dormant institutional logics?

  • How does the rapid scaling of new technologies, such as social media, alter institutions and institutional logics?

  • How are digital technologies enabling and/or constraining the emergence of hybrid institutional logics, hybrid organizing and collaborative governance (Pache & Thornton, 2021; Besharov & Mitzinneck, 2021)?

  • How do digital technologies interact with the categorical elements of institutional logics such as expressions of identity, authority, and legitimacy (Thornton et al., 2012)?

  • How does the interaction of institutions and digital technologies affect societal outcomes such as inclusion, equality, and prosperity? How might these interactions influence the responses to crisis, or the recalibration of ‘new normal’ after a crisis?

  • How is the growing prevalence of digital technologies creating new institutional conditions that support solutions to societal challenges such as natural disasters and pandemics (Gümüsay et al., 2020)?

  • How does a focus on digital technology change what we know, i.e., theoretical mechanisms and scope conditions, of classic theory, e.g., loose coupling and symbolic management (Meyer & Rowan, 1977; Westphal & Park, 2020) and isomorphism (DiMaggio & Powell, 1983) in neo-institutional theory, conflicting logics in the institutional logics perspective (Thornton et al., 2012), valuation of categories (Durand & Paolella, 2016; Durand & Thornton, 2018; Zuckerman, 2017) and organizational and institutional hybridity (Battilana et al., 2017)?

  • How do digital technologies and institutions interact to impact contemporary popular press and public policy issues such as democratic election integrity, voter fraud, fake news, media bias, and big technology censorship?

  • How does fragmentation of the institutional environment and contending institutional logics affect how digital technologies are used and evaluated?


  • Allcott, H., & Gentzkow, M. (2017): “Social Media and Fake News in the 2016 Election.” Journal of Economic Perspectives, 31 (2), 211–236.
  • Andrade, A.D., & Doolin, B. (2016): “Information and communication technology and the social inclusion of refugees.” MIS Quarterly, 40 (2), 405–416.
  • Battilana, J., Besharov, M., & Mitzinneck, B. (2017): “On hybrids and hybrid organizing: a review and roadmap for future research.” In: R. Greenwood, C. Oliver, T. Lawrence & R. Meyer (eds.): The SAGE Handbook of Organizational Institutionalism. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications, 133–169.
  • Berente, N., & Yoo, Y. (2012): “Institutional contradictions and loose coupling: Postimplementation of NASA’s enterprise information system.” Information Systems Research, 23 (2), 376–396.
  • Besharov, M.L., & B.C. Mitzinneck(2020): “Heterogeneity in Organizational Hybridity: A Configurational, Situated, and Dynamic Approach.” In: M.L. Besharov & B.C. Mitzinneck (eds.): Organizational Hybridity: Perspectives, Processes, Promises. Research in the Sociology of Organizations, 69. Bingley: Emerald Publishing Limited, 3–25.
  • Brynjolfsson, E., & McAfee, A. (2012): Race Against the Machine: How the Digital Revolution is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy. Lexington: Digital Frontier Press.
  • DiMaggio, P.J., & Powell, W.W. (1983): “The iron cage revisited: Institutional isomorphism and collective rationality in organizational fields.” American Sociological Review, 48 (2), 147–160.
  • Durand, R., & Thornton, P.H. (2018): “Categorizing Institutional Logics, Institutionalizing Categories: A Review of Two Literatures.” Academy of Management Annals, 12 (2), 1–27.
  • Faik, I., Barrett, M., & Oborn, E. (2020): “How Information Technology Matters In Societal Change: An Affordance-Based Institutional Logics Perspective.” MIS Quarterly, 44 (3), 1359–1390.
  • Gawer, A., & Phillips, N. (2013): “Institutional work as logics shift: The case of Intel’s transformation to platform leader.” Organization Studies, 34 (8), 1035–1071.
  • Gümüsay, A.A., Claus, L., & Amis, J. (2020): “Engaging grand challenges: An Institutional Logics perspective.” Organization Theory, 1 (3).
  • Hinings, B., Gegenhuber, T., Greenwood, R. (2018): “Digital innovation and transformation: An institutional perspective.” Information and Organization, 28 (1), 52–61.
  • Jha, S.K., Pinsonneault, A., & Dubé, L. (2016): “The Evolution of an ICT Platform-Enabled Ecosystem for Poverty Alleviation: The Case of eKutir.” MIS Quarterly, 40 (2), 431–445.
  • Jones, C., Meyer, R.E., Jancsary, D., & Hollerer, M.A. (2017): “The material and visual basis of institutions.” In: R. Greenwood, C. Oliver, T. Lawrence & R.E. Meyer (eds.): The SAGE Handbook of Organizational Institutionalism. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications, 133–169.
  • Meyer, J.W., & Rowan, B. (1977): “Institutionalized organizations: Formal structure as myth and ceremony.” American Journal of Sociology, 83 (2), 340–363.
  • Paolella, L., & Durand, R. (2016): “Category spanning, evaluation, and performance: Revised theory and test on the corporate law market.” Academy of Management Journal, 59 (1), 330–351.
  • Pache, A.-C., & Thornton, P.H. (2020): “Hybridity and Institutional Logics.” In: M.L. Besharov & B.C. Mitzinneck (eds.): Organizational Hybridity: Perspectives, Processes, Promises. Research in the Sociology of Organizations, 69. Bingley, Emerald Publishing Limited, 29–52.
  • Oborn, E., Pilosof, N.P., Hinings, B., & Zimlichman, E. (2021): “Institutional logics and innovation in times of crisis: Telemedicine as digital ‘PPE’.” Information and Organization, 31 (1), 100340.
  • Scott, W.W.R. (2013): Institutions and Organizations: Ideas, Interests, and Identities. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications.
  • Selander, L., & Jarvenpaa, S.L. (2016): “Digital Action Repertoires and Transforming a Social Movement Organization.” MIS Quarterly, 40 (2), 331–352.
  • Raviola, E., & Norbäck, M. (2013): “Bringing Technology and Meaning into Institutional Work: Making News at an Italian Business Newspaper.” Organization Studies, 34 (8), 1171–1194.
  • Tarafdar, M., Gupta, A., & Turel, O. (2013): “The dark side of information technology use.” Information Systems Journal, 23, 269–275.
  • Thornton, P.H., Ocasio, W., & Lounsbury, M. (2012): The Institutional Logics Perspective: A New Approach to Culture, Structure and Process. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Westphal, J., & Park, S.H. (2020): Symbolic Management: Governance, Strategy and Institutions. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Winter, S., Berente, N., Howison, J., & Butler, B. (2014): “Beyond the organizational ‘container’: Conceptualizing 21st century sociotechnical work.” Information and Organization, 24 (4), 250–269.
  • Zuckerman, E.W. (2017): “The Categorical Imperative Revisited: Implications of Categorization as a Theoretical Tool.” In: E.W. Zuckerman: From Categories to Categorization: Studies in Sociology, Organizations and Strategy at the Crossroads. Bingley: Emerald Publishing Limited, 31–68.
Isam Faik is an Assistant Professor of Information Systems at the Ivey Business School, Western University, Canada. His research investigates the digital transformation of organizations and society with particular focus on the transformation of highly institutionalized practices and structures.
Eivor Oborn is Professor of Health Care Management in the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Group at Warwick Business School, University of Warwick, United Kingdom. Her research is in the area of innovation and change, digital technologies, healthcare services and social inclusion.
Patricia H. Thornton is Grand Challenge faculty and Professor of Sociology and Entrepreneurship at Texas A&M University, USA, and Senior Research Fellow at HEC Paris, France. Her research interests focus on how institutions and organizations affect attention and strategy. Patricia is currently studying institutional analysis of three domains, innovation and entrepreneurship, inclusiveness and diversity, and solutions to grand challenges.