Special Issue – Stefanie Büchner, Jannis Hergesell & Jannis Kallinikos (Eds.): Digital Transformation(s): On the Entanglement of Long-Term Processes and Digital Social Change.
Digitalisation oscillates between profound promises of transformation and a nebulous buzzword. So, the analysis of digital transformation processes leaves hardly any social science untouched. In this HSR Special Issue, we argue for understanding digitalisation as a complex and heterogeneous process that cannot be rashly reduced to individual principles or uniform transformation effects. We argue for a more differentiated and socio-historically informed analysis not only of processes of disruptive change through digitalisation, but also of continuities, modifications, and reinforcements. We address the challenge of inquiring about the heterogeneities of digitalisation and ask: How can we identify temporal patterns of change, continuation, and entanglements characterising digital transformation? What are the decisive antecedents of contemporary manifestations? How can we explore commonalities and differences when taking our first serious look at “digitally induced” changes with different objects of comparison, such as fields, states, or discourse communities? Understanding digitalisation as a heterogeneous process does not imply multiplying observations of differences but paying attention to the complexity and embeddedness of digitalisation.
Our HSR Special Issue brings together 10 contributions that explore these heterogeneities of digital transformation(s). The first cluster analyses the heterogeneity and dynamics of digitalisation in different social sectors, focusing on the fields of health, construction, and governance. In the second cluster, the contributions focus on organisational processes, structures, and discourses. The third cluster takes up the question of novelty and continuity in the process of digitalisation and digital transformation. The concluding cluster leads us to the exploration of digitalisations in areas of research that often seem to be pushed to the peripheries of research interest.