CFP | Digital transformation of theory in the administrative sciences

Call for papers to a special issue of the Canadian Journal of Administrative Sciences [SSCI .756, Scopus, CNRS**, CABS**] on

Digital transformation of theory in the administrative sciences


  • Steffen Roth, Full Professor of Management, La Rochelle Business School, France, and Adjunct Professor of Economic Sociology, University of Turku, Finland
  • Jean-Sébastien Guy, Associate Professor of Sociology and Social Anthropology, Dalhousie University, Canada
  • Léo-Paul Dana, Full Professor of Entrepreneurship, Montpellier Business School, France
  • Harry F. Dahms, Full Professor of Sociology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, United States of America

If information systems emerged at the interface of computer science, management, and organization theory to specifically focus on the use of computers in management and organization (Hirschheim & Klein, 2012), then the field is a natural first choice to turn to for expertise in and around the digital transformation of administrative sciences. Indeed, field of information systems has contributed substantially to our understanding of various managerial and organizational types of impact and side-effects resulting from digital trends as diverse and fundamental as the proliferation of the Internet, MIS, artificial intelligence, algorithmic finance, robotization, ubiquitous organization, social media, and, last not least, big data. Thus, the field has not only provided critical updates to established theories (Styhre, 2009; Utesheva, Simpson, & Cecez-Kecmanovic, 2016), but also built on established theories to generate its own efforts to theorize specific aspects of the interactions between information technology and administrative sciences (Hanseth, Aanestad, & Berg, 2004; Leonardi & Barley, 2008; Moura and Bispo, 2020; Thorseng & Grisot, 2017; Winner, 1996).

While it is perfectly legitimate to stress the importance of both related endeavours and the considerable ensuing benefits, we also must insist that theories of digital transformation ought not be confused with the digital transformation of theories. Although the latter – the digital transformation of theories – would be an obvious option for the former – theories of digital transformation – there is still surprisingly little ambition to digitally transform theories of administrative sciences. Nor does it help that the topical transformation currently is reflects advances in the use of computational research methods which largely remain limited confronting theories with data, rather than the theorizing itself. Thus, the standard approach to theorizing continues to be the analogue moderation of interactions, conflicts, convergences and complementarity between two or more theories, preferably in the form of written natural language texts. This approach sustains situations where, e.g., digital decision support systems for decades have been standard topics of theories of administrative sciences, while simultaneously rarely being used for theory debugging or design. Texts forms that have been in use for centuries or millennia, such as conversation, allegory, and memoir, provide another example, as they are being put forth as promising alternative genres in information systems research (see Avital, Mathiassen, & Schultze, 2017), even though it has been firmly established that digitization represents a veritable challenge for traditional genres and theories (Askehave & Ellerup, 2005).

By contrast, our special issue does not seek to advance theories of the digital transformation, but rather the digital transformation of theories, with the specific focus being on theories of administrative sciences. Thus, we may ask whether and how classical and contemporary theories can be translated from natural into programming languages (Guy, 2019; Roth, 2019), or how major trends in digital transformation challenge such theories (Roth et al., 2020; Sahut, Dana, andLaroche, 2020). Moreover, in the wake of Wikipedia’s undisputed success, we may ask whether a wikification of administrative knowledge in significant ways influences the process of theory development, whether the social media aspects of academic publishing have affected the way titles, abstracts, or the theories themselves are being designed, and whether these influences are culture dependent (Jemielniak & Wilamowski, 2017). Additionally, the emergence of new tools for collaborative editing may have had an impact not only on the process of academic writing, but also on its very outcome.

Manuscripts that address general or specific aspects of the digital transformation of theories of administrative sciences (and other related fields, such as organization studies, sociology, history, or philosophy) are particularly welcome, as well as manuscripts that address the following non-exclusive list of questions:

  • Digital theoretical languages: What are suitable programming languages for a digital transformation of management and organization theory? Are there particularly promising and informative constellations of natural and formal languages, in general, or programming languages, in particular?
  • Coding and alternative forms of programming: What are sources, codes, and alternative forms of programming that might be useful for the digital transformation of management and organization research?
  • Critical updates: What are the most critical updates to be installed on 21st-century theory platforms?
  • Great resets or incremental improvements: Do we need a Great Reset of theories of administrative sciences, or is our existing theoretical fund sufficiently robust and adaptable to enable us to cope with the major (change) management issues of the 21st century?
  • Theory debugging: How might we use conventional debuggers and similar or alternative tools to test and debug existing – or to facilitate the – design(s) of future theory programmes?
  • Digital reverse engineering: Reverse theory engineering as practice for theory learning and new theory design?
  • Digital abduction: How could digitization facilitate more speculative forms of reasoning and theorizing?
  • Big data, grand theory: How does big data transform the conditions and prospects for large-scale theorizing in management, organization, and society?
  • Computer love: Which management and organization theory programmes have an inherent “elective affinity” with digital topics and programme architectures? What could be roles – and where could be sites – for intuition, emotion, and (hidden) desire in digitally transformed theories?
  • Artificial intelligence and digital virtuosity: Is there a place in digitally transformed organizations and societies for interactive figures, dynamic concepts, and magical moments, such as double contingency, ambiguity, paradox, oscillation, or ingenuity?
  • Social networking: To what extent does the imperative to propagate the results through the social media and memetization of science affect the shape of management and organization theories?
  • Open collaboration: How are the open collaboration tools affecting the content of academic output?
  • Hypertextuality: Does hypertextuality create or support the emergence of new forms of organization and management theories?
  • Wikification: How does Wikipedia influence the emergence of new organization and management theories?
  • Gamification: What are digital tools for and trends in a serious or a simply playful gamification of management and organization theory?
  • Creative theory destruction: Are there any creative-destructive digital tools that are prone to use for the purpose of theory re-/design?
  • Hacking: What can (particularly heterodox) theorists learn from hackers and digital pirates I the interest of moving beyond brute force attacks (#problematization) on established theory programmes and platforms? Are there options for side channel attacks between otherwise incongruent or auto-immune theory programmes? How can we imagine phishing for complements to traditional theories of management and organization?

Manuscript submission is open from 01 April to 01 October 2021. Manuscripts must constitute original research and comply with the Canadian Journal of Administrative Sciences’ author guidelines. This special issue is supported by members and convenors of dedicated tracks at the EURAM 2021 conference in Montréal, the International Social Theory Consortium, the Humanistic Management Network conference, and the Niklas Luhmann conference series at the Inter-University Center Dubrovnik. Membership or participation in these networks or events is not a prerequisite for contributions to this special issue.

Please do not hesitate to email to or for informal enquiries regarding the special issue.


  • Askehave, I. and Ellerup Nielsen, A. (2005) ‘Digital genres: a challenge to traditional genre theory’, Information Technology & People, 18(2), 120-141.
  • Avital, M., Mathiassen, L., & Schultze, U. (2017). Alternative genres in information systems research. European Journal of Information Systems, 26(3), 240-247.
  • Guy, J. S. (2019). Digital technology, digital culture and the metric/nonmetric distinctionTechnological Forecasting and Social Change145, 55-61.
  • Hanseth, O., Aanestad, M. and Berg, M. (2004) ‘Guest editors’ introduction: Actor-network theory and information systems. What’s so special?’, Information Technology & People, 17(2), 116-123.
  • Hirschheim, R., & Klein, H. K. (2012). A glorious and not-so-short history of the information systems field. Journal of the Association for Information Systems, 13(4), 188.
  • Jemielniak, D., & Wilamowski, M. (2017). Cultural Diversity of Quality of Information on Wikipedias. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, DOI: 10.1002/asi.23901.
  • Leonardi, P. M., & Barley, S. R. (2008). Materiality and change: Challenges to building better theory about technology and organizing. Information and Organization, 18(3), 159-176.
  • Moura, E. O. D., & Bispo, M. D. S. (2020). Sociomateriality: Theories, methodology, and practice. Canadian Journal of Administrative Sciences/Revue Canadienne des Sciences de l’Administration37(3), 350-365.
  • Roth, S. (2019). Digital transformation of social theory. A research updateTechnological Forecasting and Social Change146, 88-93.
  • Roth, S., Schwede, P., Valentinov, V., Pérez-Valls, M., & Kaivo-Oja, J. (2020). Harnessing big data for a multifunctional theory of the firmEuropean Management Journal38(1), 54-61.
  • Sahut, J. M., Dana, L. P., & Laroche, M. (2020). Digital innovations, impacts on marketing, value chain and business models: An introductionCanadian Journal of Administrative Sciences/Revue Canadienne des Sciences de l’Administration37(1), 61-67.
  • Styhre, A. (2009). The cinematic mode of organizing: Media and the problem of attention in organization theory. Information and Organization, 19(1), 47-58.
  • Thorseng, A. A. and Grisot, M. (2017) ‘Digitalization as institutional work: a case of designing a tool for changing diabetes care’, Information Technology & People, 30(1), 227-243.
  • Utesheva, A., Simpson, J. R., & Cecez-Kecmanovic, D. (2016). Identity metamorphoses in digital disruption: a relational theory of identity. European Journal of Information Systems, 25(4), 344-363.
  • Winner, L. (1996). Who will we be in cyberspace? The Information Society, 12(1), 63-72.

Proponent biographies: 

Steffen Roth is Full Professor of Management at the La Rochelle Business School, France, and Adjunct Professor of Economic Sociology at the University of Turku, Finland. He holds a Habilitation in Economic and Environmental Sociology awarded by the Italian Ministry of Education, University, and Research; a PhD in Sociology from the University of Geneva; and a PhD in Management from the Chemnitz University of Technology. He is the field editor for social systems theory of Systems Research and Behavioral Science. The journals his research has been published in include Journal of Business EthicsEcological EconomicsAdministration and SocietyTechnological Forecasting and Social ChangeJournal of Organizational Change ManagementEuropean Management JournalJournal of Cleaner Production, and Futures. His ORCID profile is available at

Jean-Sébastien Guy is Associate Professor in the department of sociology and social anthropology at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada. He has previously published in Current SociologyCanadian Journal of Sociology, Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Current Perspectives in Social TheoryEuropean Journal of Social Theory and International Review of Sociology. He has recently published a book on the distinction between metric and nonmetric in sociology.

Léo-Paul Dana is a graduate of McGill University and HEC-Montreal. He began lecturing at Concordia University in 1984, taught at McGill from 1992 to 1997 and subsequently at INSEAD. He served as Expert Witness for the Government of Canada House of Commons Standing Committee on Transport and later as Senior Advisor to the World Association for Small and Medium Enterprises with United Nations advisory status. Formerly tenured at the University of Canterbury, he is full professor of entrepreneurship at Montpellier Business School. He has an extensive research background studying entrepreneurship in different cultures and has produced 45 books and 295 articles appearing in a variety of journals including: Entrepreneurship: Theory & Practice; International Business Review, International Small Business Journal, Journal of Business Research, Journal of Small Business Management, Journal of World Business, Small Business Economics, and Technological Forecasting and Social Change. His biography appears annually in the Canadian Who’s Who (published by the University of Toronto Press). Current research interests: cultural capital; methodology, wine.

Harry F. Dahms is Full Professor of Sociology, co-director of the Center for the Study of Social Justice, and co-chair of the Committee on Social Theory at the University of Tennessee, USA. Dahms’s primary research and teaching areas are theoretical sociology (social, sociological, and critical theory), economic sociology, globalization, social inequality, and social justice. He is the editor of Current Perspectives in Social Theory, and director of the International Social Theory Consortium (ISTC). His research was published in such journals as Sociological Theory, Critical Sociology, Basic Income StudiesBulletin of Science, Technology, & SocietyFast CapitalismSoundings:  An Interdisciplinary Journal, and numerous edited volumes.

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