Information Systems: Why History Matters


Call for Papers for a Special Issue of Journal of Information Technology

Information Systems: Why History Matters

Senior Editors:
Antony Bryant
Alistair Black
Frank Land
Jaana Porra

Any discipline or field of professional practice has a history. A proper understanding of the discipline needs to be based on a widespread awareness of that history. The field of information systems (IS) is no different in this regard. As the IS field matures, it needs to evolve a historical perspective on its own subject matter.

Although there has been some significant work within IS studies that relies upon and uses historical data, there is little by way of information historiography to guide further work and future research. This is ironic given that information systems themselves are now the fons et origo of contemporary (richly demonstrated by the recent WIKILEAKS affair) and future archives. In addition, there is significant reliance upon case studies, and other forms of historical narrative, in IS research and general IS literature. So it is essential that those working within IS studies understand the role and nature of archives and other historical sources, both in terms of a resource for research into information history, and as a topic for discussion amongst archivists, historians, and other information and information system researchers and professionals: Also developing an awareness of the processes underlying the development of archives as social artefacts.

The interest in producing IS history encompasses many disciplines and varying perspectives on IS. The IS discipline itself is closely related to other disciplines or research domains, such as information studies, information science, library history, organizational studies, business studies, software engineering (including requirements engineering), HCI, AI, CAD/CAM, criminology, social studies, behavioural sciences, economics and communication studies – although all too often these links are ignored or simply forgotten. In so doing, the IS community is missing an opportunity to engage with, and learn from, others with differing perspectives on topics of common interest. Furthermore, this engenders an uneasy feeling that many current IS issues and concerns might be at least partially resolved with a better knowledge and understanding of ‘information history’ in its broadest sense.

The purpose of this special issue is to provide a broad based platform for an IS historical discourse. Thus, we welcome contributions from all fields that are concerned with the IS subject matter. While many aspects and areas of IS studies rely on historical data, evidence and archives, the common goal is to produce a body of IS history. In this spirit, we invite contributions on a variety of topics related to IS history. Such topics may touch upon fundamental philosophical questions such as: What is IS history? At a more practical level, they may include areas such as:
the development of information history as a multidisciplinary research effort
an analysis of historical approaches and methods and what these can provide for the IS researcher
the existence of primary sources for IS history, and associated problems of access and methodology
the nature of the archive
good examples of the use of historiographic approaches to IS studies
previously unpublished histories
the study of the evolution of the IS disciplines
how the boundaries of the discipline were set and defined
the study of the evolution of IS organization, practice and management, including such practices as outsourcing
the study of the evolution of the IS profession
the study of the evolution of the role of information systems and professionals in organizations
the study of the evolution of IS design methodologies
the study of evolution of IS applications
exploring the management of change
the importance of understanding the pre-history of IS as currently defined, including continuities or contrasts with earlier pre-computer phases, technologies and systems
the study of IS innovation and diffusion including: stages of growth models; the study of IS success and failure; use and policies around public and private archives
information archives in the age of Freedom of Information legislation, PR and spin
the use of history as an instrument for understanding the present and planning the future; and the consequent dangers of ‘presentism’
the inevitability of the ‘double hermeneutic’ in unravelling the historical record


Frank Bannister, Trinity College, Dublin

Rudy Hirschheim, Distinguished Professor of Information Systems at the EJ Ourso College of Business Administration at Louisiana State University, USA

Nathalie Mitev, Department of Information Systems, LSE, UK

Neil Pollock, Reader in e-business, University of Edinburgh, UK

Neil Ramiller Professor of Management, School of Business Administration, Portland State University

Boyd Rayward, Professor Emeritus, University of Illinois, USA

Burt Swanson, Professor and Area Chair for Information Systems at the UCLA Anderson School, USA

Toni Weller, Visiting Research Fellow in History, Department of Historical and Social Studies, De Montfort University, UK


Information about JIT, including formatting requirements, can be found at

Questions about the special issue can be directed to Tony Bryant [a.bryant at]

Papers should be submitted to JIT [JITedoffice at] with the title of the Special Issue in the Subject Line.

December 31 2011 Articles submitted
July 31 2012 Reviews returned to authors
October 31 2012 Revised version of articles due

December 31 2012 Final papers selected
June 2013 Publication of Special Issue

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