Digital Transformation and Innovation Explained: A Scoping Review of an Evolving Interdisciplinary Field

Digital Transformation and Innovation Explained: A Scoping Review of an Evolving Interdisciplinary Field

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1879-3.ch001
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Digital transformation is reshaping many areas of work and life within contemporary society. These include healthcare, education, government, politics, law, human rights, and ethical controversies. This chapter addresses the following questions, What is the current conception of digital transformation as an emerging interdisciplinary field of research and study? The objectives of the chapter are twofold: (1) to conceptualize digital transformation as an emerging interdisciplinary field and (2) to identify key research areas that currently constitute digital transformation. The chapter contributes by positing a comprehensive systems definition of digital transformation as an interdisciplinary research field to help guide researchers and other leaders in the field.
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The object of the critic, then, is to seek not the unity of the work but the multiplicity and diversity of its possible meanings, its incompleteness, the omissions which it displays, and above all, its contradictions –C. Belsey, 1980

The above quote illustrates the depth of knowledge and rigor required to capture a comprehensive understanding of the complex and diverse domain of Digital Transformation (henceforce referred to as DT) as an emerging interdisciplinary research field. As an emerging field, critical reflection on the conceptual development and current meaning of the field are required. Conceptual development in DT provides essential theoretical grounding for ongoing academic research and practice. It also provides useful indicators of changes in the field and new directions. Unfortunately, the roots of DT are not easily discerned for multiple reasons. First, the conceptual development of Digital Transformation is complex and intertwined with changing conceptions of E-Business and Technology. Second, the multiplicity of theoretical roots for DT are difficult to access within silos of traditional institutions of Higher Education where DT oriented academic programs and connected research activities are often unknown outside the department or school within which they are created and managed. This chapter focuses primarily on exploring the conceptualization DT as an emerging interdisciplinary research field.

Gleaming back over the short history of DT appears to reveal three primary stages in DT development, namely, E-commerce, E-Business, and DT. Early roots of DT were mainly found under the umbrella of E-Commerce aligning with Internet and computer networking developments in the 1980s and 1990s the. This was followed by a gradual broadening of research areas and professional interests in the 1990s and 2000s under the term E-Business and E-Business Technology. Aghaei, Nematbakhsh, and Farsani (2012) traced this transition to the transition of Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 with the shift from Internet use for online operations to Internet use for online exchange and transactions. E-business continued to flourish into Web 3.0 with the popularization of smart phones which allowed users to have a greater level of online interaction with vendors and online review systems. The rise of DT in the last decade aligns with movement to Web 4.0 (also called Industrial Revolution 4.0) where Internet connectivity continued to expand into a variety of everyday electronic devices and other objects (Erboz, 2017).

This researcher has noticed a recent surge in scholarly research under the umbrella of Digital Transformation (DT) over the last decade, which appears to reflect a conceptual shift to a broader more inclusive field within academia and expansion of research scope across traditional disciplinary boundaries. This raises important questions about current conceptions about this evolving research field and the core research areas that feed into it. What are the main concepts and core research areas that define DT as an interdisciplinary research field? Guided by scoping review procedures, the main chapter objectives are to: (1) conceptualize Digital Transformation as an emerging interdisciplinary field and (2) identify key research areas within Digital Transformation. Recommendations for guiding future research development are offered at the end of the chapter along with a selected reading list.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Systems Approach: A logical process or complex strategy to identify needs, analyze problems and possible solutions, or design procedures to improve systems operations and eliminate needs.

Artificial Intelligence: Artificial intelligence (AI) refers to the creation of computer programs and devices for simulating brain functions and activity. It also refers to the research program aimed at designing and building intelligent artifacts.

Industry 4.0: Is a collection of technologies (disruptive digital and physical) that offer new value to users, groups, and organizations.

User Experience (UX): Refers to a recent multi-disciplinary domain of research and practice that deals with new ways of understanding and studying the quality-in use of interactive products. US draws on related design concepts, including: Usability testing, user interface, interaction design; web design; visual aesthetics, and experiential aspects of technology use.

Techno-Aesthetics: Deals with study of human aesthetic values, experiences, and judgements of beauty connected to technology. Techno-aesthetics questions the origin and nature of aesthetic values and human experience concerning technology and its role in human life and society.

Technology: (Process) construction uses and the organization of knowledge for the achievement of practical purposes in intellectual and social contexts; (tool): material construction and operation of physical systems based on systematic knowledge of how to design artifacts; and (system): a self-producing and operationally-closed system situated within and differentiated from the environment.

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