Conceptualization of digital traces for information systems research and people & workplace analytics

Most work practices involve digital technology” (Orlikowski & Scott, 2016).

Contemporary work has seen a shift towards project-based forms of organizing. Employees are dispersed across the globe and time zones, and serve on multiple teams, which are rapidly staffed to collaborate for a short period of time (Barley & Kunda, 2001; Wageman et al., 2012). The variance in schedule, location, tasks, tools, colleagues, and hierarchy, as well as its dynamics, requires employees to work together through extensive use of communication and collaboration tools, which generates digital traces (Barley & Kunda, 2001).

Digital traces are computerforensic data and depict the actions and interactions an employee performs on devices such as the computer or smartphone. They are generated through routine use of technology and potentially cover the complete history of using a particular software or device. It has been suggested that such digital traces can provide fruitful grounds for data collection and yield rich insights into digital work activities, enabling exploratory and explanatory information systems research (Hüllmann, 2019). However, not all digital traces are the same. There are differences in digital trace types, velocity, extraction, information purpose, and measurement. A taxonomy of digital traces will help to synthesise extant literature and organize the field (Nickerson et al., 2013).

Thesis goal:

Develop a taxonomy of digital traces tailored to information systems research.

Lead Question:

What are the dimensions and characteristics of the taxonomy on digital traces?

Thesis Method:

Literature Review


digital traces; conceptualization; literature review; taxonomy


Barley, S. R., & Kunda, G. (2001). Bringing Work Back In. Organization Science, 12(1), 76–95.

Hüllmann, J. A. (2019). The Construction of Meaning through Digital Traces. Proceedings of the Pre-ICIS 2019, International Workshop on The Changing Nature of Work, 1–5.

Nickerson, R. C., Varshney, U., & Muntermann, J. (2013). A method for taxonomy development and its application in information systems. European Journal of Information Systems, 22(3), 336–359.

Orlikowski, W. J., & Scott, S. V. (2016). Digital Work: A Research Agenda. In A Research Agenda for Management and Organization Studies (pp. 88–96).

Wageman, R., Gardner, H., & Mortensen, M. (2012). The changing ecology of teams: New directions for teams research. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 33(3), 301–315.