The relation between technologies and humans, and how digital technologies change the nature of this relation, are key theoretical issues underlying Information Systems research. Starting from a critical realist position, two questions are asked: First, what are the key characteristics of the difference between the traditional interaction between humans and technology, and the ways we deal with digital technology? Second, what can critical realism learn from strong sociomateriality in answering this question? I argue that critical realism should engage with strong sociomateriality, not by accepting its conception of reality, but by following its implications and empirical focus. Centering on the realist concept of emergence, I offer a reading that can account for many of the implications of strong sociomateriality. To explain how the digital is more tightly coupled to social phenomena than other types of technologies, the concept of transformational emergence is introduced to Information Systems literature. The argument is illustrated by a reanalysis of Scott and Orlikowski’s seminal study of TripAdvisor. The key argument is that the malleability of digital entities entails that they are disposed to transform by emergence, which is key to understanding the empirical inseparability between the social and the material in contemporary phenomena.
Kempton, Alexander Moltubakk, (2019). "THE DIGITAL IS DIFFERENT: A REALIST REINTERPRETATION OF SOCIOMATERIALITY". In Proceedings of the 27th European Conference on Information Systems (ECIS), Stockholm & Uppsala, Sweden, June 8-14, 2019. ISBN 978-1-7336325-0-8 Research Papers.