Communications of the Association for Information Systems


In this research essay we contend that “emergence,” or the formation of complex wholes from parts, is a fundamental concept for comprehending the dynamic relationships between people, technology, and organizations during the ongoing cycles of design, appropriation, and use of information systems. Past research on emergent phenomena use the concept with varying degrees of attention to the structural and functional changes that have occurred to components in the emergent whole or to the implications of the processes by which emergence occurs. Refining our perspectives of emergence will guide researchers in clarifying how the socio-technical whole is greater than the constituent parts and how the whole comes into existence over time. In this article, we define three forms of emergence and provide both research exemplars and a framework for categorizing emergent phenomena to better articulate and refine how we understand emergent phenomena in Information Systems.