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Roger Clarke's 'Researcher Perspective in EM'

Researcher Perspectives in Electronic Markets

Published in Electronic Markets 30,1 (Mar 2020) 15-27, at

Final Version of 10 January 2020

Roger Clarke **

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A review is presented of the stakeholder perspectives that researchers have adopted in studies published in the journal Electronic Markets to date. Modest numbers of articles were found in each of the less common categories of single-, dual- and multi-perspective research, and at least one on each of the social and environmental dimensions.

In common with the Information Systems literature generally, however, most articles appear to be not only single-perspective in nature, but also to reflect the interests of only the organisation that is central to the research context (the 'system sponsor'). Although some have the concerns of marketspace participants as their focus, few consider in depth the impacts on non-participants that are nonetheless stakeholders.

Similarly, it is uncommon for dual-perspective work to be reported. Such research could, for example, actively seek balance between the interests of sellers and buyers, or between traders and marketspace operators. A modest number of multi-perspective works were found, surprisingly few in complex inter-organisational chains and networks, but rather more that consider the broader contexts of markets.

Many opportunities exist for greater diversity among contributions in the coming decades. Of particular importance is single-perspective research that privileges market participants other than the system sponsor, and non-participants who are affected by the operations of markets. Deeper understanding can be delivered by performing dual-perspective research. Meanwhile, multi-perspective approaches can deliver value at industry sector levels, and for policy-makers.

As might reasonably be expected, economic aspects dominate articles to date. However, there are many social factors that need attention, and the lack of attention to the environmental dimension of markets is a gap that gives rise to an ethical obligation. The Editors have been to date cautiously welcoming of submissions that adopt these, less mainstream approaches, particularly through innovative Calls for Special Issues. I suggest that this openness will be an important element underpinning EM's ongoing success.


1. Introduction

The TALISMAN system performed overnight batch processing and settlement of all transactions on the London Stock Exchange from 1978 to 1997 (Michie 1999). In 1977-78, when I was a member of the TALISMAN design team, we well understood that the system was a necessary enabler for the development of online share trading. The switch duly occurred, as a central element of the 'Big Bang' transformation in 1986 (Clemons & Weber 1990). But what we did not appreciate at the end of the 1970s was how many other markets would migrate from places to spaces, and how enormously the scale, the reach, and the economics of marketspaces would be affected by the emergence 15 years later of readily-available information infrastructure in the form of the publicly accessible Internet.

This article joins others in celebrating the 30th year of the journal that has chronicled developments in Electronic Markets (EM). As the founding editor put it in the first Issue in September 1991: "Conventional markets, which mostly still require personal contact between market-partners, will develop [through open, international communications networks] into electronic markets" (Schmid 1991, p.1, transl.). The field has since been subject to rapid changes in technology, which have variously driven and enabled changes in business practices (Alt & Klein 2011, Clarke and Pucihar 2013, Alt & Zimmerman 2014, Alt et al. 2015).

In another recent journal-anniversary article, I had the opportunity to compare the technological infrastructure and key psycho-socio-economic factors of 2018 against those of 1985 (Clarke & Wigan 2018). In this article, I adopt a quite different form of 'retrospect and prospect'. My purpose here is to give critical consideration to the stakeholder perspectives that are evident in research published in EM to date, and to thereby issue challenges to, and identify opportunities for, contributors to the journal during at least the coming decade.

The article commences with an outline of theory relating to researcher perspective. Following some reflection on the nature of electronic markets research, an informal review is presented of the researcher perspectives that are evident in the corpus of work, with particular reference to the last two decades during which the journal has been fully-refereed. Implications are drawn for the conduct of research in electronic markets, and opportunities are identified.

2. The Theory of Researcher Perspective

Some research is intended for consumption only by other researchers, and is not intended to have relevance to practitioners. Most research, however, is concerned with real-world phenomena, and a great deal of it involves carefully-conducted observation of some object of study. Generally, the parts of the real world that members of the EM community select as objects of study involve multiple entities, each of which perceives the phenomena in their own way. A common term used to refer to those entities is 'stakeholders' (Freeman & Reed 1983), hence:

Stakeholder Perspective is the viewpoint adopted by a stakeholder in a particular activity, reflecting that stakeholder's perception of phenomena within the relevant context, the stakeholder's value-set, and the interests that the stakeholder seeks to protect and advance

When changes occur, each stakeholder observes them from their own particular viewpoint, and seeks to protect and advance their own interests. The actions of, and interactions among, stakeholders may have a significant impact on the outcomes. Hence a researcher who seeks to present credible research, even merely describing phenomena let alone predicting or making normative judgements about behaviour, needs to achieve a sufficient understanding of the relevant stakeholder perspectives.

The central proposition of researcher perspective theory is that research is seldom conducted in a holist or universalist manner, reflecting the interests of all stakeholders at once. It is very challenging for a researcher to convincingly claim omni-cognisance. It is accordingly much more common to adopt the perspective of one party, or the perspectives of a small number of the parties, involved in or affected by the events. The key term is accordingly defined as follows:

A Researcher Perspective is a particular stakeholder perspective that is adopted by a researcher as the, or a, viewpoint from which to observe phenomena during the conduct of a research project

Impressions gained from reading IS research articles over many years, bolstered by recent surveys (Clarke 2015, Clarke 2016, Clarke & Davidson 2020), suggest that the majority of published IS research adopts the perspective of a single stakeholder. Three broad categories of entity are usefully distinguished whose interests Single-Perspective Research projects could in principle reflect:

The entity whose interests are privileged by the design of any particular research project could be in principle any entity in any of the above three categories. In practice, however, again on the basis of both informal impressions and the empirical research cited above, the large majority of single-perspective research is conducted for the benefit of system sponsors.

There are alternatives to single-perspective research. A considerable proportion of research adopts as the object of study a dyad. Examples include, in B2B contexts, an upstream supplier and a downstream acquirer; in B2C, a marketing organisation and consumers; and an employer and its employees. A great deal of the research on dyads is single-perspective research, conducted from the perspective of one of the two entities, with its interests treated as objectives, and the interests of the other entity as constraints on the achievement of the first entity's aims.

In Dual-Perspective Research, on the other hand, the interests of both entities in the dyad are treated as objectives, and hence the conflicts between the two entities' interests are internalised within the object of study. An example in the marketing literature is an empirical study "of factors of VAR relationship in high-technology sales management" from the perspectives of both a corporation and its 15 value-added resellers (Parvinen & Niu 2010, p.35).

Beyond the business-with-business arena, opportunities exist in B2C. 'The Cluetrain Manifesto' "nailed 95 theses to the Web", arguing that the then new context (since retronymed 'Web 1.0') resulted in consumers gaining market power, and that 'markets are conversations' (Levine et al. 2000, esp. pp.75-114). Soon afterwards, in a highly-cited article, Prahalad & Ramaswamy (2004) argued that "High-quality interactions that enable an individual customer to co-create unique experiences with the company are the key to unlocking new sources of competitive advantage ... It is not the firm trying to please the customer" (pp.7, 8). Tournois (2013) collected data "from 55 companies, involving 146 managers and 425 consumers of branded products that these companies sell", concluding that market orientation correlates only weakly with customer value and not at all with customer satisfaction (p.1157). Studies that consider 'markets as conversations' rather than as oratory, and those that address 'co-creation', deliver insights unavailable from research conducted with a single-minded focus on the interests of the marketing corporation alone.

Multi-Perspective Research is also feasible, but involves considerably greater challenges. This is because the interests of multiple entities are inevitably in more substantial conflict than that which arises when only two stakeholders are in competition. Moreover, the conflict is more likely to extend across multiple dimensions. Rather than the conflict being of the nature of a zero-sum game centred on the price of goods or services, some entities may be concerned about contract terms that assign risk, and others may focus on social factors such as work/life balance or negative impacts on some categories of employees, customers or usees.

A metaphorical description of the importance of multi-perspective research is provided by Worrall (2004): "If we decide to shine the light from one direction then we might illuminate one face of our subject very clearly and only create one set of shadows but if we illuminate our subject from multiple directions we can see that our subject does not have a single face, it has multiple faces and we also create a very complex pattern of shadows" (p.163). Elsewhere in the management literature, Ho et al. (2015) argue that "The active involvement of concerned stakeholders [including national/local government, policy makers, environmental groups, community/public] would lead to a balanced consideration of multiple and conflicting voices of customers and provide a mechanism to communicate tacit knowledge" (p.152). Further, "research that is approached from multiple perspectives ... can help to illuminate the complex and contested nature of the purpose and practice of Apprenticeship schemes [and] to uncover some of the embedded struggles and conflicts underpinning the process which I feel could provide an informed critique of the scheme" (Outram 2012, p.52).

In a water catchment management context, Wei et al. (2012) established a "platform for social learning, understood as changes in understandings and practices which move towards concerted action amongst diverse stakeholders in a particular setting [that] demonstrates potential to enable decision makers at national, regional and local levels to be engaged in joint purposeful managing actions in relation to the water resource and environmental degradation of the catchment" (p. 315). Enzensberger et al. (2002) proposes an evaluation approach for wind energy projects, "taking into account the different interests of all relevant stakeholder groups in the three fields: renewable energy business (especially wind industry), policy making and conventional power business" (p.793), but also extending to investors, bankers, project developers, plant suppliers, system operators and utilities (p.796).

Multi-perspective research also has important applications inside organisations. In evaluating strategic supplier performance, Dey et al. (2015) consider various internal stakeholder groups: "finance, procurement, production, quality, technical, marketing departments and top management" (p.197). Strecker et al. (2011) argue that "IT risk assessment methods need to take the perspectives of stakeholders with different professional backgrounds-- from IT operations to management--into account" (p.597).

Where the challenges inherent in multi-perspective approaches can be overcome, electronic markets research can deliver substantial value. One setting is tightly-linked supply chains, or segments of them, as proposed in Reimers et al. (2004), or infrastructures to support them (Klein et al. 2012). Another setting is inter-organisational networks, as have long existed in international trade (e.g. Wrigley et al. 1994, Cameron & Clarke 1996, Badia et al. 2007). Networks are also evident in many contemporary industry sectors, particularly in Internets of Things, and in the digital surveillance economy (Clarke 2019). Further, where researchers seek to contribute to the resolution of public policy questions, the adoption of this approach is essential.

As indicated by the above discussion about conflicts among interests, stakeholders' perspectives do not necessarily lie on the same dimension. Where B2B participants are negotiating on the price of a tradable item and the allocation of the costs of delivery, the perspectives of both parties lie on the economic dimension. On the other hand, an organisation's interests in relation to its staff may focus on the cost and productivity of labour, whereas employees are concerned about not only economic factors (in particular, pay and allowances) but also factors on the social dimension (such as impositions on their free time, work-induced stress, compulsory unpaid overtime, monitoring of work performance, and physical intrusions such as the enforced extraction of biometrics for identity authentication and body fluids for drug-testing).

The accelerating pace of partly-anthropomorphic climate change needs to stimulate activity in many disciplines. Recognition of the importance of the environmental dimension exists within IS (Watson et al. 2010, Elliot 2011, Malhotra et al. 2013, Gholami et al. 2016), but few researchers have responded to the calls. For example, the focus of the 'Green IS' field is almost entirely on organisational cost-savings and image-burnishing, not on energy-savings, resource-savings or emissions reductions. Research in IS generally, including in electronic markets, needs to take into account not only the economic, but also the social and environmental dimensions.

The very brief outline above summarises propositions from a series of papers in which the theory of researcher perspective has been developed, commencing with Clarke (2015) and in more articulated form in Clarke & Davison (2019). Empirical studies relevant to the topic are in Clarke (2015), Clarke (2016) and (Clarke & Davison 2020). Broadly, the empirical work to date has found that, in a variety of IS venues:

3. The Nature of Electronic Markets

The definition of electronic markets presented on EM's web-site is:

forms of networked business where multiple suppliers and customers interact for economic purposes within one or among multiple tiers in economic value chains

Key services that electronic markets offer include the discovery of items, offers and offerors, the development of sufficient confidence to conduct negotiations and transactions, and the delivery of goods or performance of services. EM's web-site also defines their functions as extending to "longer-term relationships and processes for enabling business transactions and/or knowledge management".

The contexts within which trading is undertaken are so diverse that an enormous range of market forms exists. For example, Clarke (2001) identified as key differentiating factors the category of tradable item, the nature of the exchange - particularly the timing and directness of reciprocity (Bambury 1998) - the importance of risk management and trust, the extent and nature of regulation, the number of parties involved, the sizes of the parties involved, and the power relationships among the participants.

Reliable descriptions and explanations of electronic markets depend on models of market players and the relationships and data-flows among them. In Figure 1, a pragmatic working model of market participants is depicted, which has proven useful in consultancy and seminar work in the area. Participants necessarily include sellers and buyers, in some contexts more usefully referred to by the collective term 'traders'. By using the abstract notion of 'tradeable item', the model encompasses barter as well as the exchange of all forms of goods and services, physical and virtual, against all forms of currency. There may be an intermediary, usefully referred to in electronic contexts as a 'marketspace operator'. There may be agents for traders. Many categories of service-providers support both the marketspace operator and traders.

The Figure contains two further elements. Some entities are not marketspace participants, but are affected by it. The Figure adopts the term 'usees', which was introduced earlier in the article. In addition, the shapes of, and the processes in, many marketspaces are significantly affected by laws and regulatory agencies, and by corporations and associations with statutory regulatory responsibilities (such as stock exchanges), auditors, and industry standards. Although depicted here as being external to the market, some reach inside in order to observe, to log and perhaps audit transactions, and even to intervene.

Figure 1: A Working Model of Market Participants

Applying researcher perspective theory to this conception of markets, a wide variety of stakeholder choices can be seen to exist for single-perspective research. Where the participant operates their own system, they are a system-sponsor as that term is used in the theory of researcher perspective. This includes a marketspace operator, but also an agent or broker that provides an intermediating service between traders and a marketspace operator, a trader that operates their own system, a developer of an IT tool that sells a product to a trader, and a service-provider such as an insurer, financier or transport company that operates a system.

As an alternative to a system-sponsor, single-perspective research can adopt the perspective of a participant that is a user of any of these systems (e.g. in B2B, a business partner; in B2C, a consumer-customer; or an employee), or a non-participant/usee (e.g. a category of people about whom the system stores data; or a regional city in which the organisation is a large-scale employer).

Similarly, research can adopt the perspective of a regulator, such as a government agency responsible for industry supervision, an auditor, or a marketspace operator whose functions include monitoring of the behaviour of market participants. A currently vibrant arena is that described by the 'RegTech' notion, where regulatory arrangements include infrastructural mechanisms that take advantage of IT to shape, or to intervene in, electronic markets (Clarke 2018).

It is reasonable to expect that mainstream research will be single-perspective and will focus on the central players, particularly marketspace operators, traders, and agents such as brokers. On the other hand, particularly in some forms of market, other entities also perform pivotal roles. For example, the Computer-Aided Livestock Marketing (CALM) system in Australia was an active endeavour by an association for widely-dispersed sub-dominant sellers to extract what (from the seller's perspective) were more equitable prices for cattle and sheep. In order for CALM to achieve market reach, accredited livestock assessment service-providers proved to be critical (Clarke & Jenkins 1993, Driedonks et al. 2003).

Dual-Perspective Research can be usefully conducted on many stakeholder-pairs. Important examples include marketspace-operator and trader; buyer and seller; trader and financier; and marketspace operator and regulator. Dual-perspective research would appear to offer significant advantages in circumstances in which both parties have sufficient market and/or institutional power to exercise a veto over an initiative, or to at least neutralise the other player's advantages. However, even where one party has dominance, that party may derive far greater benefit from dual-perspective than from single-perspective research because of the insights that can be gained into the perceptions, motivations, trade-offs and likely behaviours of the other party. However, the information systems discipline has barely noticed that such opportunities exist. For example, of the 16,000 refereed articles in the AIS eLibrary, only 5 contain the string 'Cluetrain', and only 20 include 'co-creation' in their title or abstract.

There is also ample scope for Multi-Perspective Research in electronic markets, in order to reflect the interests of some or all participants in supply-chains, and in inter-organisational networks. In such settings, it is commonly the case that the strongest of the players is less powerful than the others combined. Multi-perspective research is necessary if academics are to provide support for organisations that need to participate in multilateral negotiations and to seek designs that achieve 'win-win-win' outcomes. For example, in the context of electronic payment adoption, Oh et al. (2006) identified the need for a critical mass of each of the stakeholders to perceive net benefits to accrue to them. Ondrus et al. (2009) pursued a similar analysis in the mobile payments marketplace.

Public policy applications include studies of protections for sub-dominant sellers and buyers (typically consumers, and micro- and small enterprises), and for usees whose interests are negatively affected by the operation of a market and who lack the market power to protect their interests. For example, the Hog Auction Market (HAM) was supported by the Singaporean government expressly to break the oligopolistic power of pig-farmers, which was being applied to the detriment of Singaporean consumers (Neo & Clarke 1992, Neo 1992).

Given the primary functions of markets, it is to be expected that the main focus of researchers, as for participants, will be on the economic rather than the social and environmental dimensions. However, circumstances exist in which social factors are in need of research attention. One example is studies of trader stress, variously as principal and as an employed agent. Another is discrimination against categories of participant such as consumers with socio-economic disadvantages, with disabilities such as sight-impairment or colour-blindness, or without access to necessary information infrastructure. For example, a search of the AIS Electronic Library reveals 7 papers that focus on 'micro-loan' markets, where social wellbeing of the poor is a key consideration.

Examples of research topics on the environmental dimension include carbon trading to lower emissions (e.g. Clarke 2009), and tendencies in some markets to generate resource and energy wastage - a contemporary example of which is bitcoin mining (Economist 2018).

The theory of researcher perspective, applied to the electronic markets space, gives rise to some expectations about what might be found in the journal's many Issues and more than 650 refereed articles. The following section reports on some surveys undertaken in support of the present paper, whose purpose is to provide some empirical insights to complement the inferences that this section has drawn from theory.

4. Empirical Insights

A first, very rough indicator of the extent to which some of the ideas addressed in this article have been evident in the journal Electronic Markets is provided by Google Scholar searches on individual keywords. Across the whole corpus of close to 900 contributions, "dual-perspective" occurs in 3 articles, "cluetrain" in 3, and "multi-perspective" in 4. The term "co-creation" has 62 mentions, but the highly-cited original source of the term, Prahalad & Ramaswamy (2004), is cited in only 5 of them, suggesting that many mention it in passing rather than featuring it as a central theme.

To delve somewhat more deeply, I undertook reviews of the researcher perspectives that are evident in the corpus of EM articles. As is natural for a journal of 30 years' standing, the articles are stored in varying formats - some image-only and some text-accessible; and are discoverable and viewable through various channels, some searchable and others not. The pragmatic approach was adopted of searching on the ProQuest site. This provided searchable access, mostly to full-text, from 2004 (Vol. 14, Issue 1) to 2018 (Vol. 28, Issue 4). The count of articles was shown as 479, of which full-text appeared not to be available for c.200 articles mostly in the period 2004-08. The journal's own index-pages suggest about 420 articles were published in the 60 Issues during 2004-18, and a further 226 in 24 Issues 1998-2003, which together provide the primary corpus of c.650 articles. (A further c.220, mostly unrefereed and shorter articles were published in 24 Issues 1991-1997).

Articles were sought using several sets of criteria. The criteria were selected in order to provide a sense of the researcher perspectives in the corpus, in a manner inspired by the stratified random sampling approach. One set of articles was selected on a particular topic-area, in order to gain some understanding of the extent to which commonalities and diversity are evident within something resembling a research genre (s.4.1 below). Separately, because it is known from the previously-cited research that Single-Perspective / Systems-Sponsor research dominates many IS venues, an active endeavour was made to identify and assess articles that adopt one of the minority approaches to researcher perspective (s.4.2). Similarly, because most perspectives are on the economic dimension, searches were conducted for exemplars that are on the social dimension (s.4.3), and on the environmental dimension (s.4.4).

The primary search strategy utilised words relevant to the particular criterion, within full-text, or within title or abstract. Each contender article was subjected to a preliminary scan in order to eliminate non-relevant works. Given the uncertainties involved, a complementary scan was undertaken of all titles in the journal's own index-pages for the period 1998 to 2018 inclusive, selecting for consideration such additional articles as appeared likely to satisfy any of the criteria. Across the four separate pools, the first approach yielded 50 articles, and the second a further 10. Of those 10, 1 was selected because it was dual-perspective, 1 was multi-perspective, and 8 were on the social dimension.

The assessment technique applied to the c.60 articles has been previously used in a number of studies. Briefly, the technique involves isolating passages that indicate the interests that are being represented and/or the audience to which the outcomes are addressed. Statements of such forms as 'we examined the extent to which <an intervention> delivers benefits to <an entity>' and 'the research shows that <an entity> benefits from ...' are indicative of a single-perspective study with its focus on the interests of that entity. A dual-perspective article could be expected to contain such statements as 'this section identifies implications for both <entity-A> and <entity-B>'. The coding guidelines and the coding sheets used in this study are provided as Supplementary Materials.

It is stressed that, although the assessment techniques are established, the sample selection technique was too informal for strong claims to be made about the population of c.650 articles from which the stratified, and intentionally weighted / non-random, sample of c.60 was drawn.

4.1 A Sample in a Particular Topic-Area

Auctions have been an active area of interest within the electronic markets field, and were the theme of an EM Special Issue as early as 1997 (Klein 1997). Using the search-term {auctions} in Title or Abstract within the ProQuest collection, a total of 33 articles was identified. Of these, 4 were addressed solely to researchers, and did not adopt the perspective of any real-world stakeholder. The techniques for identifying researcher perspective were applied to the remaining pool of 29 articles.

Of the 29, 26 were found to be single-perspective in nature (90%), with the other 3 dual-perspective (10%), and none multi-perspective. Of the 26 single-perspective articles, 24 adopt the auctioneer's perspective, 1 that of market-dominant buyers, and 1 that of sellers.

Of the 3 dual-perspective articles, all include auctioneers, in 2 cases in conjunction with sellers, and in case 1 with bidders. (Surprisingly, no buyer and seller dual-perspective articles were detected). The market-dominant buyer operated a system, so the system sponsor's interests were reflected in 27/29 articles (93%). All of these proportions are (remarkably closely) in line with the findings from the other samples of IS research examined to date.

This example of an expression that is indicative of a dual-perspective article is from Hou & Blodgett (2010, p. 29):

"The results from this study have important implications for auction design [but, in addition,] sellers, in order to increase their revenues, should ..." (p.29)

Of the 29 articles, 28 are on the Economic Dimension (97%). A single article, Rafaeli & Noy (2005), is on both the Economic and Social Dimensions, because it considers

"social presence, expressed by virtual presence and interpersonal information", which "significantly affects both bidding behaviour and market outcomes" (p.158)

The single-perspective/system-sponsor majority had attracted an aggregate of 807 Google citations, range 0-199, mean 28 (or 22 without the outlier). The non-mainstream approaches have to date generated somewhat less interest. The 3 dual-perspective articles had attracted 2, 14 and 9, a mean of 8 (although their distribution over time was markedly more recent than that of the population). The 1 single-perspective/sellers article (also recent) had 13 citations. On the other hand, the 1 article on both the economic and social dimensions (which was not recent) had 50, giving a range of 2-50 and a mean of 18.

Other impressions gained from the sample were that a great many authors were primarily addressing researchers, with only a few placing any great stress on implications for practice. None adopted a multi-perspective or public policy approach. Only one was even partly on the social dimension (e.g. none considered stress on individual traders, or on employed traders), and none were on the environmental dimension (e.g. considering auctions as a means of reducing emissions and hence addressing global warming).

4.2 Non-Mainstream Research

An active endeavour was made to identify articles that are Single-Perspective but that address the interests of some other stakeholder instead, or are Dual- or Multi-Perspective. As a first step towards locating such articles, a search was undertaken for {stakeholders} in Title or Abstract in the ProQuest collection of c. 400 articles. That search was complemented by inspecting the titles of all articles in the index at (i.e. the full set of c. 650 articles in the corpus), and scanning of the abstract of each that appeared to be a contender.

On inspection of the resulting set of 15 contender articles, it was found that several that consider multiple stakeholders are nonetheless single-perspective in nature. This was despite some of them having as the object of study collaborative concepts such as 'win-win-win strategies' and 'value co-creation'. In other cases, the focus is primarily on theoretical aspects and to only a limited extent on the interests of a specific real-world stakeholder. As a result, 8 articles have the characteristics being sought. None adopt an other-than-system-sponsor single-perspective approach. None are Dual-Perspective in nature. All are Multi-Perspective.

Nelson et al. (2005) considers industry standards development by means of stakeholder consortia. Chang & Jarvenpaa (2005) addresses standards development in relation to the eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL). Fisher & Craig (2005) identifies inadequate stakeholder engagement as a failure factor in SME portal development. All three adopt the perspective of "a heterogeneous group of stakeholders" in the process.

Cabrera & Oezcivelek (2008), which was one of two research articles in a Special Issue on 'Inclusive ICT Business', concludes that

"[ICT-based independent living services] policies should not limit their perspective to older individuals, but should include also the context of relatives, informal carers, and formal care (in its different forms)" (p.311)

Ilic et al. (2009) is concerned with "efficient inter-organisational management of high volumes and low value [returnable transport items] (such as pallets ...)" (p.126), and reflects the interests of the various organisations in the supply chain. Similarly, Rittgen (2009) is concerned with stakeholder involvement in IOS self-organisation, through collaborative modelling.

Sharma & Gutierrez (2010) addresses the question of

"a viable business model, where all the players, including consumers, operators, content providers, device and equipment manufacturers, portal providers, content producers, distributors or other cooperating in the value chain run a profitable business and extract sufficient incentives to sustain the value network" (p.34)

Laakso et al. (2017) declares in its title the centrality of its "implications for stakeholders in academic publishing", and its implications section is addressed to

"stakeholder perspectives for publishers, university libraries, authors, and [Academic Social Networks] themselves" (p.131)

Multi-Perspective research therefore has a limited but diverse track-record in the journal, in most cases in B2B and inter-organisational contexts and on the economic dimension. It appears that the adoption of a multi-perspective approach is of interest to EM's readership, in that the Google citation-count for the 8 articles aggregated 261, range 0-64, mean 33.

4.3 The Sample on the Social Dimension

Articles were sought that are on the social dimension, whether alone or in conjunction with another dimension. Searches were undertaken in the ProQuest collection, using words associated with 'social' in Title or Abstract. A first search was undertaken of {privacy} in Title or Abstract. Assessment of the articles was not undertaken, however, partly because there are 27 contenders, plus a further 100 with mentions in full-text, but primarily because the concept is multi-dimensional, analysis must be painstaking, and any assessment technique will inevitably be contentious and require a full article to present satisfactorily. The impression gained during the scan was that the primary focus in most of the articles is on privacy concerns of consumers as a barrier to the achievement of business objectives, in particular in the context of acquisition and exploitation of personal data.

As a more practical exercise, searches were undertaken using the search-terms {stress, discrimination, wellbeing, fairness, equity, micro-loans} in Title or Abstract. Non-relevant articles were removed, for example those relating to price 'fairness' and to brand 'equity'. This found 7 contenders, and a further 8 were identified by inspection of titles at

Of the pool of 15 articles, 10 did not meet the criteria for the sample, primarily because economic motivations dominate. For example, one article considers 'virtual communities' and 'virtual publics', but the purpose is to use them as tools in marketers' e-commerce strategies; and an article on the topic of social informatics and eValues considers only economic aspects. In some further articles, no stakeholder perspective is adopted, and implications are drawn only for researchers. That left 5 articles on the social dimension.

The implications section of Becker et al. (2008) adopts "the perspective of e-Government managers" (p.321), and hence is Single-Perspective / System-Sponsor research. However, it addresses eInclusion and the 'digital divide', and reflects the interests of

"groups of senior citizens, low educated citizens, unemployed citizens and citizens from thinly populated areas" (p.316)

and hence is policy-relevant work on the social dimension. This is one of the 2 research articles in a Special Issue on 'Inclusive ICT Business'. The other, Cabrera & Oezcivelek (2008), outlined in s.4.2 above, is concerned with health and welfare policies, and hence also on the social dimension.

Menschner et al. (2011) addresses the needs of designers of systems to support Ambient Assisted Living (Single-Perspective / System Sponsor), but it utilises the active participation of multiple stakeholders, and its focus is on health care, including nutrition.

Saravanan & Balasundaram (2013), published in a Special Issue on 'Mobile Health', examines the application of mobile IT to provide timely services for needy people who are at risk while on the move. Implications are drawn for

"doctors, patients and health care providers" (p.13)

and hence the work is Multi-Perspective, and on the social dimension.

Meng et al. (2016) considers government social media strategies in order to achieve "virtual society management" (p.17) during public emergencies. It does this by means of a study of a large-scale (and successful) environmental protest concerning a new molybdenum-copper plant. The strategies are classified into five categories: "introducing, appealing, explaining, rumor-refuting, and decision-making" (p.15), mapped against a phase-model comprising fermentation, confrontation and digestion. A single researcher perspective is adopted, that of the government, and the study is on the social dimension.

On the one hand, EM as a collection demonstrates only limited compassion for the human condition, as evidenced by the small number of articles found, and, for example, the absence of 'micro-loans' from any title or abstract, and inclusion in full-text in only a single article. Moreover, although one article had achieved 67 Google citations, the others, averaging 7 years since publication, showed 4, 0, 0 and 9. On the other hand, the social dimension is represented in the EM corpus. This suggests that the shortage of such articles may not be a result of unattractiveness to the Editors of social-dimension research.

4.4 The Sample on the Environmental Dimension

It is known that a modest number of exemplar articles in the IS literature adopt a researcher perspective on the environmental dimension. However, the samples selected in all of the preceding studies of IS venues have not included a single such article. As noted in the previous section, within EM, Meng et al. (2016) has as its object of study an environmental protest concerning a new molybdenum-copper plant. However, the researcher perspective adopted was that of the government agencies seeking to sustain social order, and hence was on the social rather than the environmental dimension.

Searches were undertaken in the ProQuest collection, using words associated with environmental factors both in Title or Abstract and in full-text. The search-terms used were {"carbon credits", "energy trading", environmental, "natural resources", pollution, waste, bitcoin, blockchain}. A scan was also undertaken of titles at Each search naturally found contender-articles that used the search-term in ways not relevant to the study, such as 'business environmental factors'.

The terms "carbon credits", "natural resources", pollution and waste achieved no hits, and the only 2 articles on "energy trading" were on the economic dimension. The term 'bitcoin' in full-text found 8 articles, 4 of which also mention the more general concept of blockchain. Only 1 of these 8 articles mentions energy as a consideration, and only as a cost to miners for "substantial investment in hardware and significant recurring daily expenses", not as an environmentally profligate activity. Moreover, sustainability is considered only in its financial and not in its environmental sense.

These assessments resulted in a pool of 4 articles. All were in a Special Issue on Smart Energy in 25, 1 (March 2015). In their substantive editorial, Kranz et al. (2015), declared the aim of the Special Issue as being

"to advance research on smart energy with a particular focus on interdisciplinary perspectives offering viable new insights to scholars, policy makers, regulators, and business decision makers alike" (p.8)

The Editors used "the Web of Science, Business Source Premier, and the AIS Electronic Library to search for the keywords 'Green Information System', 'Green IS', 'Smart Grid', 'Smart Energy', 'Energy Informatics', and 'Environmental Sustainability'" (p.9). In explaining their motivation

"to have a real impact on the pressing issue of climate change and environmental degradation"

they noted that "Research on smart energy is necessarily inter- (or trans-) disciplinary, which seems not to fit into the tradition of IS journals (Malhotra et al. 2013)" (p.9), and that "the value of IS research in solving one of the most critical problems of humankind is virtually imperceptible" (p.9). (My own sole contribution on carbon trading, Clarke 2009, although presented at a well-established conference, has attracted far fewer citations than my other papers at the same event, most of which were also on non-mainstream topics - 1, cf. a mean of 20 for mature i.e. >5-year-old papers, range 4 to 48).

"To encourage more of this interdisciplinary and impactful research, however, IS journals must open themselves to alternative research methods and topics. Malhotra et al. (2013) have made specific suggestions about how IS journals could embrace more problem-oriented research, which we explicitly support. In a nutshell, they claim that journals should create special editorial teams for some time that serve as 'gate openers' for impactful [Green IS] research. These teams should carefully balance the impact of an article and its theoretical contribution. As would be expected, Green IS research must still adhere to the high scientific standards of our discipline. However, the societal impact should become a more important decision criterion in the review process to make our discipline more relevant and visible" (p.9).

The first of the 3 research articles, Dedrick et al. (2015), examines why adoption rates of smart grid technologies are still low, concluding that the regulatory context is one factor stifling adoption; while another is the size and bureaucracy of organisations in a large and heavily regulated sector.

Schwister & Fiedler (2015) concludes that the main barriers to smart energy information systems diffusion are adoption costs, switching costs, a collective action dilemma, and a lack of business cases for all stakeholders.

Roemer et al. (2015)'s aim is

"to advance the understanding of factors that are necessary for the acceptance and adoption of [IS-enhanced distributed electricity storage systems (ESS)] in private households ... We recommend adopters of photovoltaics as first target customers. Moreover, our findings have important implications for utility companies, policy-makers, and for the design and marketing of IS-enhanced ESS" (p.47)

On the one hand, the 3 articles are largely on the economic dimension, and only just sufficiently positive in relation to environmental implications to qualify as being on the environmental dimension as well. On the other hand, all 3 are multi-perspective in approach, they are preceded by an editorial that champions the environmental dimension, and they have gained 52 Google citations in the first 3 years since publication. In any case, the mere existence of the Special Issue is noteworthy, and the substantive editorial a key contribution.

Further, a mere 4 years after the Special Issue, major corporations are promoting environmental objectives and pursuing business opportunities in the area, and the Greta Thunberg and Xtinction Rebellion (XR) phenomena have arisen. This in turn has created many more opportunities for contributions to EM research.

5. Conclusions

Although the sampling process has been informal, it appears reasonably likely that EM shares with all other IS venues examined to date the characteristic that mainstream research has been dominated by single-perspective approaches that prioritise the interests of the system sponsor, and that focus on the economic dimension.

Even within the auctions research genre, however, the 29 instances found included 2 (7%) Single-Perspective / Other and 3 (10%) Dual-Perspective articles. Searches across the EM corpus located a dozen articles reporting Multi-Perspective Research, plus 5 on the Social Dimension. Meanwhile, the discovery of 4 articles on the Environmental Dimension was a breakthrough result in the researcher perspective arena. It is clear that modest numbers of articles have been published in the journal that present policy-relevant research.

Although a total of c.20/c.650 (3%) non-mainstream researcher perspectives appears to be a miserly market-share, the sampling techniques used in this rapid survey were not strong enough to conclude that all instances were found, and in any case the nature of both IS and marketspaces is such that a substantial proportion of research can be reasonably expected to be system-sponsor oriented and on the economic dimension.

Looking at the data from a different angle, however, exemplars have been identified for all 5 of the non-mainstream categories, and hence articles adopting those approaches are at least not precluded from gaining acceptance in the journal: all are legitimate for submission to EM.

Moreover, there is evidence to suggest that the situation is a little more positive than merely 'legitimate' and 'not formally precluded'. A significant proportion of the articles that adopt less conventional approaches appear in Focus Theme Sections, Special Theme Sections and Special Issues. For example, in the Calls for Special Issues current at the time of writing, dual- or multi-perspective approaches are relevant to the topics of 'digital ecosystems' and 'human-AI collaboration'. The Editors have signalled their willingness to encourage novel approaches to researcher perspectives, and actively enlist the support of senior researchers active in non-mainstream research-domains and approaches.

Many opportunities exist in terms of the specific stakeholder whose interests are prioritised in Single-Perspective Research. Table 1 summarises examples provided earlier in the text. The scope of the stakeholder notion is not limited to market participants, but encompasses usees affected by the market. Similarly, imagination can be applied to the choice of the pair of entities whose interests are reflected in Dual-Perspective Research. Beyond that, there is scope for Multi-Perspective Research within the dynamic industry sectors that exhibit network structures. Studies solely on the economic dimension can be complemented by others that focus on the social, and on the environmental dimension. In addition, projects that adopt a Multi-Perspective approach that includes the social and/or environmental dimension can contribute to policy-formation processes.

Table 1: Examples of Research Opportunities

Researcher Perspective Cardinality
Researcher Perspective
B2C, G2C: Consumer/Customers, Suppliers

B2B, B2G: Customers, Suppliers, Partners


Regulatory: Regulatory Agencies, Auditors, Marketspace Supervisors

Data Subjects

Regional Cities with a dominant employer

Users and System Sponsor

Competing Users / Usees

Sellers and Buyers

Traders and Marketspace Operators

Traders and Financiers

Employers and Employees

Regulatees and Regulators

Chains, Networks
Win-Win-Win and Co-Creation Studies,

Shared Infrastructure, Standards Creation

Public Policy
Competition, Market Power, Consumer Rights, Discrimination

Risk Assignment, Sub-Dominant Actors, Micro-Pricing, Micro-Loans
Markets for Public Goods and Services, e.g. health care, disability services, welfare services

Disadvantaged Segments: socio-economic, physical impairment, connectivity constraints

Employment Contexts: work-life balance, work-induced stress (e.g. traders), compulsory unpaid overtime, workplace monitoring, physical intrusions (e.g. biometrics, swabs)

Carbon and Energy Trading

Energy and Resource Conservation

Energy and Resource Recycling

Emissions Management / Reduction

The opportunities do, however, bring challenges with them. All academics, but especially early-career researchers, need their efforts to achieve publications, and their publications to gain citations. It is common to encounter resistance from conservative 'gate-keepers' who perceive non-mainstream topics, approaches and methods as threats to their established conception of appropriate research. So particular care is needed to conceive, design, conduct and present the research in such a way that it convinces reviewers of its quality and its interestingness. Even after achieving publication, however, the low citation-rates for non-mainstream research noted earlier suggest that only a small proportion of the readership of EM and cognate journals is interested in such topics or in such approaches. Apathy may need to be overcome if the full scope of EM is to be addressed. In the interim, academics are achieving limited visible impact in return for a great deal of effort.

Fortunately, however, EM's Editors have shown that they are ready for such opportunities to be addressed. During the coming years, I believe there will be a surge in submissions that adopt suitably careful, but novel, research approaches and research techniques, and that deliver value in these far-too-seldom-tackled areas of economic, social and environmental need.


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The author records his appreciation of valuable feedback from Profs. Roger Bons (FOM Hochschule fuer Oekonomie & Management, Essen), Robert Davison (City Uni of Hong Kong), Sigi Goode (Australian National University, Canberra) and Doug Vogel (Harbin Institute of Technology). He also thanks the Editors, Rainer Alt and Hans-Dieter Zimmermann, both for their invitation and for the considerable amount of constructive feedback that they provided.

Author Affiliations

Roger Clarke is Principal of Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, Canberra. He is also a Visiting Professor in Cyberspace Law & Policy at the University of N.S.W., and a Visiting Professor in the Research School of Computer Science at the Australian National University.

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