Communications of the Association for Information Systems


From the time of the first ICIS conference in 1980, the debate over the identity of IS research continues to flare. Accompanying this debate is an endless quest for "the core" of the IS field and its boundaries, as well as the identification and articulation of its reference disciplines and research methods. This debate most recently crystallized in the dialectic between the Benbasat-Zmud-Weber position around narrowing the field to center around the core of "the IS artifact" --- and the Alter position around broadening the field to be a work-centered systemic interconnected view. This paper argues that there is nothing inherently wrong with either of these two perspectives, but that they are just alternative models of reality which bring particular central features of phenomena to the foreground and hide other features. The paper further argues that there is at least a third critical perspective that can be equally argued for. It characterizes these three perspectives of IS identity as connection, immersion, and fusion, and articulates their commonalities and distinctions. Like the "Three Faces of Eve" in the classic 1957 Hitchcock movie thriller, each of these faces of IS identity reveals particular aspects of the IS persona. This paper contends that it may be time for a natural shift of emphasis from the Connection view to the Immersion View to the Fusion view as IT continues to morph and augment its capabilities. The paper explains the differences and similarities among the three views, and articulates each of them. The Fusion view is one that is not yet apparent in the IS field. This paper alerts the IS scholarly community to pay attention to it, and suggests ways of doing that.