Grounded theorizing for electronically mediated social contexts


Authors: Vaast, Emmanuelle; Walsham, Geoff


Electronically mediated social contexts (EMSCs), in which interactions and activities are largely or completely computer-mediated, have become important settings for investigation by Information Systems (IS) scholars. Owing to the relative novelty and originality of EMSCs, IS researchers often lack existing theories to make sense of the processes that emerge in them. Therefore, many IS researchers have relied upon grounded theory in order to develop new theory based on empirical observations from EMSCs. This article reviews a selected set of papers concerned with grounded IS research on EMSCs. It examines how the authors of these papers handled the characteristics of EMSCs and, in particular, addresses the topics of data collection, data analysis, and theory building. The paper also draws implications and recommendations for grounded researchers interested in investigating these original and fascinating environments in their future work. For example, it calls for grounded researchers on EMSCs to reflect upon the characteristics of their domains of inquiry, to respect the logic of discovery of grounded methods, and to articulate more clearly their theoretical ambitions along the induction/abduction continuum. The paper closes by suggesting promising areas for future grounded research on EMSCs, including taking advantage of the potential for combining qualitative and quantitative analytical methods. © 2013 Operational Research Society Ltd. All rights reserved.

European Journal of Information Systems, January 2013