Since the founding of the Journal of Management Information Systems (JMIS) thirty-four years ago, the journal has been committed to methodological pluralism, to seeking and widening new paths to understanding in the belief that doing otherwise would limit our contribution to the store of knowledge and constrain the flow of scholarly pursuits. We have equally been committed to the wide horizons and inclusiveness that bring significant novel content to our discipline. The Special Issue on Action Research in Information Systems that you will read here is an expression of our commitment to foster a broad array of methodologies in seeking new knowledge. Action research (AR) consists in reflective problem-solving practice in continuing combination with data-based analysis of the underlying causes of the observed phenomena, to enable generalization and prediction. AR is generally iterative and involves a collaboration of researchers and practitioners with a diversity of perspectives that contribute to the richness of the results. It is therefore a vital component of an effort to keep our field close to and, we hope, ahead of practice.
All that having been said, not enough (or actually little) AR is done. The reasons are many and various, some of them stemming from perceived or misperceived pragmatics, others from the path dependence of this research domain. The Special Issue is expected to change this in a positive direction. The articles presented by the guest editors, Ned Kock, David Avison, and Julien Malaurent, showcase the application of AR in several organizational settings. The authors of the studies are very much aware of their mission of presenting the capabilities of AR along with their core research objectives. Beyond introducing these works to readers, the guest editors also supply a methodological study that shows, in particular, how to combine AR with a positivist approach to knowledge seeking.
The first article in the general section contributes an empirical investigation to an important issue that has been with us since the emergence of the web. When using the web as a medium, are we trying to isolate ourselves by communing with people “like us,” or are we communicating with them and the “others”? In scholarly terms, do social network service (SNS) platforms show or foster homophily—a marked preference of their users for associating with similar others? Hyeokkoo Eric Kwon, Wonseok Oh, and Taekyung Kim offer an interesting and nuanced answer. The authors base their research on the communications conducted on Facebook as a symmetrical SNS (reciprocal communications) and Twitter as an asymmetrical one (with one-way communications possible). They find that, although homophily is a marked tendency in these contexts, heterophily can result as well if the users adopt some of the communication channels as opposed to others. This is an important result in the context of social policy, or even just good business.
Carol Saunders, Martin Wiener, Sabrina Klett, and Sebastian Sprenger investigate the sources of the emotional and cognitive overload that can result from the use of computer and communication technology (ICT) and, specifically, of mobile phones. The problem will not be unfamiliar to readers. The authors claim that the overload results not simply from the amount of information delivered (the well-known “information overload”). Adopting a deeper cognitive perspective on the issue, the researchers show that the culturally embedded mental representations as well demographic factors play a significant role in the onset of such overload. Once we know the true sources of this quite prevalent phenomenon in ICT use, we might begin to address them.
Online product recommendations produced by individuals or recommendation agents are receiving unwavering attention from consumers as well as researchers. The authors of the next article in the issue consider these recommendations as only the first stage in a two-stage model of generating product advice. David Jingjun Xu, Izak Benbasat, and Ronald T. Cenfetelli present and empirically assess a two-stage recommendation process, during which the first-stage recommendation can be refined and improved upon at the second stage, generally in interaction with a user. The authors thus study the recommendation-improvement functionality of the overall recommendation system. Beyond that, they introduce the complementarity principle that shows the mutual influence of the two recommendation stages. As the state of the art in the recommendation-system design progresses with massive use, we may see these results influence the design of two-stage, or crowdsourced, recommenders.
Cyberbullying has become a highly unwelcome epiphenomenon of social media use. Behind a number of well-publicized incidents with egregious consequences, there are myriad everyday occurrences. What can be done? The legal system is hardly effective in prevention. Obviously, it is far better to prevent cyberbullying by design—if we know how to do that. Paul Benjamin Lowry, Gregory D. Moody, and Sutirtha Chatterjee offer a theory-based contribution that should help. They attribute cyberbullying to the control imbalance perceived in the use of social media: individuals who perceive they are being controlled by others might engage in this revenge behavior. The authors deploy established theories in seeking accountability and preventing deindividuation through the features of the information systems. Their empirics support the model, which gives us a handle on brightening one of the dark sides of information technolocy use.
In the concluding article, Brent Furneaux and Michael Wade offer an integrated model of information systems (IS) discontinuance, that is, of the obstacles to IS replacement. We all know that the systems kindly termed as “legacy” often constrain organizational performance and are the address for good money sent after bad money. And yet they are not being replaced. The authors present a model, validated through a survey of senior IS managers, that reveals the principal causes of the inaction. A coherent initiative of removing these causes will help managers in setting out an IS replacement strategy when the time comes.
It is my pleasure and privilege to welcome the new members of the JMIS Editorial Board: Ravi Aron (Johns Hopkins University), Alan Dennis (Indiana University), Kai-Lung Hui (Hong Kong University of Science and Technology), and Karthik Kannan (Purdue University). My thanks for their contribution and best wishes go to the outgoing members of the board, Jacob Akoka, Izak Benbasat, and Iris Vessey. They have served the journal and our scholarly community long and well.