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The curse of the smart machine? digitalisation and the children of the mainframe

Sørensen, Carsten ORCID: 0000-0002-2002-9383 (2016) The curse of the smart machine? digitalisation and the children of the mainframe. Scandinavian Journal of Information Systems, 28 (2). pp. 57-68. ISSN 0905-0167

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We are the children of the mainframe. From the early 1950s this smart machine glowed its alluring lights, zoomed its magnetic tapes, and worked hard a couple of megabyte memory worth millions of dollars. The mainframe computer created a foundation for the field of Information Systems (IS) educating IS professionals and researching how software and organisational practices could be designed and implemented, and what effects could result from such efforts. Nearly 70 years on, since the Lyons Electronic Office began in 1951, much has happened. The radical digitalisation and transformation of organisational and public service processes challenges not only perceived wisdoms amongst IS practitioners, but also within academia. This essay challenges the IS field on its fundamental ability to address the grand challenges associated with the digital transformation of societies, organisations, as well as the lives and livelihoods of individuals. The essay argues that the IS field will need to more explicitly address its assumptions rooted in the organisational mainframe. The IS field must transcend the mainframe heritage from our inception if it wishes to escape a pathological curse rendering the field unable to deal with the powerful synthesis of: wholesale digitalisation of society; the computerised distribution of human activities; and exponential scaling of computational capabilities.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2016 The Association of Information Systems - AIS
Divisions: Management
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA75 Electronic computers. Computer science
Date Deposited: 26 Jan 2017 10:34
Last Modified: 12 Jun 2024 07:12

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