Alternative futures for the digital transformation: a macro-level Schumpeterian perspective

Dr Zlatko Bodrožić opens the Autumn CERIC seminar series

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This study, co-authored by Zlatko Bodrožić and Paul Adler, develops a theoretical framework for assessing the prospects of a cluster of technologies driving what is often called digital transformation. There is considerable uncertainty regarding this transformation’s future trajectory and, to understand and bound that uncertainty, we build on Schumpeter’s macro-level theory of economy-wide technological revolutions and on the work of several scholars who have extended that theory. In this perspective, such revolutions’ trajectories are shaped primarily by the interaction of changes within and between three spheres—technology, organization, and public policy. We enrich this account by identifying the critical problems and the collective choices among competing solutions that together shape the trajectory of each revolution. We argue that the digital transformation represents a new phase—deployment—in the wider arc of the Information and Computer Technology revolution and that the trajectory of this deployment depends on collective choices to be made in both the organizational and public policy spheres. Combining in a two-by-two matrix the two main alternative solutions on offer in each of these two spheres, we identify four scenarios for the future trajectory of the digital transformation: digital authoritarianism, digital oligarchy, digital localism, and digital democracy. We discuss how these scenarios can help us trace and understand the future trajectory of digital transformation.


Zlatko Bodrožić is a Lecturer in Technology, Organization and Sustainability, and co-leader of the LESS research group on system-level sustainability at the University of Leeds. Zlatko's research focuses on the evolution of technologies, organisational paradigms/ management models, and public policy (see for example Administrative Science Quarterly, March 2018). He studies the interplay of these three spheres in epochal transformation processes—in particular in the digital transformation and the transition to a sustainable society. At the European Group of Organizational Studies conferences (2021-2024), he acts as co-coordinator of the Standing Working Group “Organization Studies in the Anthropocene: System Change, Not Climate Change.”

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