Monika Rohe-Al Torman

Lunchtime Seminar

What makes technology-driven innovation disruptive? The role of interpretive discontinuity
Tuesday, 4. July 2017 - 12:00 to 13:00, Leo 18

Speaker: Prof. Dr. Kai Riemer


A well-known yet poorly understood phenomenon of radical innovations is that their disruptive potential is frequently missed initially, but appears entirely self-evident with hindsight. We name this phenomenon “interpretive discontinuity”. We propose to consider disruption akin to a Kuhnian revolution. By demonstrating direct parallels between paradigm shifts in scientific fields and technology-induced industry disruptions, we show that disruption is a shift in worldview that fundamentally alters what counts as customer value or product quality and thus puts the industry on a new trajectory. Interpretive discontinuity then results from the incommensurability of worldviews underpinning the old and new industry paradigms. We draw on the music industry to illustrate our argument. A better understanding of interpretive discontinuity is important both for theorizing disruption and for businesses at risk of having their business model invalidated by disruptive change. This paper is a collaboration with Prof Robert B Johnston (The University of Sydney Business School).


Kai Riemer is Professor of Information Technology and Organisation at the University of Sydney Business School. Kai’s expertise and research interests cover the areas of Technology Appropriation, Virtual Work, Social Networking, Digital Disruption and the Philosophy of Technology. Kai has extensive experience with industry-funded research and leads a Linkage project initiative on managing bottom-up adoption of end-user technologies, sponsored by the Australian Research Council. He is the founder and leader of the Digital Disruption Research Group (DDRG) and convener of DISRUPT.SYDNEYTM. Kai’s research follows practice theoretical and non-orthodox approaches and appears in journals such as MIS QuarterlyEuropean Journal of Information Systems, Journal of Information Technology, International Journal of Electronic Commerce, or Communications of the Association for Information Systems. Kai is a board member of the Journal of Information TechnologyElectronic Markets, and the Business and Information Systems Engineering journal.