The concept of generativity as the capacity of a technology or a system to be malleable by diverse groups of actors in unanticipated ways has recently gained considerable traction in information systems research. We review a sample of the body of knowledge and identify that scholars commonly investigated generativity in conjunction with digital infrastructures and digital platforms, both of which are complex, networked, and evolving socio-technical systems. Interestingly, other types of digital artifacts have been neglected, despite our initial assumption that the distinct attributes (e.g., reprogrammability, distributedness) of any digital artifact match well with generativity. The literature review also reveals that innovation brought about heterogeneous groups of actors is universally regarded as the goal of generativity, discounting the possibility of exploiting generative systems towards other valuable ends such as organizational agility. Furthermore, scholars commonly discuss generativity in conjunction with the logic of modularity, leading to unresolved questions on how these two concepts might complement each other. Another important contribution of this paper is the systematization of various meanings of generativity, spanning from the philosophical–e.g., generative mechanisms in critical realist research–to a more literal understanding, for instance generativity as synonym to ‘creation of a particular solution’.
Eck, Alexander; Uebernickel, Falk; and Brenner, Walter, "The Generative Capacity of Digital Artifacts: A Mapping of the Field" (2015). PACIS 2015 Proceedings. 231.