Journal of Management Information Systems

Volume 37 Number 3 2020 pp. 595-597

Editorial Introduction

Zwass, Vladimir


The Special Section that opens this issue of JMIS engages two key arenas of the contemporary information systems (IS) within the general compass of economics. One of them is a major opportunity to affect economic exchange; the other is a fundamental threat to organizations and the wellbeing of societies. Robert J. Kauffman and Thomas A. Weber are the Guest Editors of this Special Section on The Economics of Sharing and Information Security.

Sharing economy may be defined as a horizontal economic sector where information technology (IT) enables large-scale sharing of resources, be they cars, lodgings, food, jewels, garments, or any other assets that come into the purview of the entrepreneurial activity in the domain. This definition places resource sharing at the nexus of a Venn diagram whose circles include peer-to-peer markets, on-demand economy, crowdsourcing, servitization of goods, communitarian economy, gig economy, and several other analytical lenses and socioeconomic points of view of the analysts. The infrastructure underpinning the ecosystems of this economy today generally materializes as centralized platforms that become the locus of control and revenue. Tenably, blockchain-based decentralized infrastructures, with the attendant (but not epiphenomenal) democratization, will become an implementation in the future. Two of the papers in the Special Section focus, respectively, on the supply-side participation in ride-hailing firms and on the pricing of products that can become shareable and controllable by their seller to various degrees owing to their “smartness.”

The third paper of the Special Section addresses the incentives for the firms to invest in cybersecurity. In the Internet-connected world, a firm’s underinvestment in security endangers all of us. An analogy to the carelessness of an individual in a pandemic is apt here. The present study uses an accessible proxy for the firms’ security controls to construct a security index that is then shared with the companies to induce the laggards to beef up their security. From the comparison of the responses of the firms located in one of the six Asian countries to the index, conclusions are drawn by the authors about the relationship between the country’s IT development stage and the firms’ response to this intervention. The results strengthen our understanding that the issue of cybersecurity has to be handled as a common problem.

Three papers that open the general section of the issue continue the focus on different aspects of cybersecurity and employ diverse methodologies to arrive at their conclusions and recommendations. Mohammadreza Ebrahimi, Jay F. Nunamaker Jr., and Hsinchun Chen contribute to our ability to identify threats from the dark net marketplaces (DNM), where malware, including the potent (and expensive) zero-day exploits, is trafficked. To seek out the threats, the researchers present a novel approach to semi-supervised deep learning. The approach is semantically embedded within the DNM domain to vastly reduce the necessary volume of labeling. This lends economy, decreases reliance on sparse labeling data, and reduces the human error and the potential bias of labeling. Innovations in the learning network structure are combined here with this original approach to machine learning. Both precision and recall are shown to be superior to the preexisting methods. Generalization and application to other domains are the clear future directions.

Fear appeals sent to the IS users are meant to motivate them to engage exclusively in secure behaviors. These appeals are sent to both organizational and personal users. They are theoretically grounded and often effective. Should the appeals be abstract or concrete? The research findings so far have been contradictory. Here, Sebastian W. Schuetz, Paul Benjamin Lowry, Jason Bennett Thatcher, and Daniel A. Pienta contextualize the question and refine the degrees of appeal’s abstractness to provide the answer. They find that the two types of users differ significantly in their response to the fear appeals. At the same time, the concrete fear appeals are conclusively found more effective. The personally relevant concreteness is the key.

The next paper in the sequence addressing cybersecurity explores the role of IS governance. Che-Wei Liu, Peng Huang, and Henry C. Lucas, Jr., use the survey method to establish the role of centralization of this governance in the prevention of security breaches. In a uniform comparison field, the researchers use the data from the U.S. universities over a four-year period. The findings show that centralized IS decision-making is associated with fewer security breaches. It has been decided some time ago that the boards of directors and the top executives bear personal responsibility for the organizational cybersecurity. The present findings amplify the correctness of this arrangement and point to a proper distribution of decision rights in an organization. Taken together with the three preceding papers, the work shows multi-pronged avenues leading to cybersecurity and the role our research can play in paving them.

Online product recommendations and reviews play a vital role in consumer-oriented e-commerce, strongly influencing the prospective buyer’s decision-making process. The recommendations come from multiple sources. What do consumers do to reconcile the advice when making a decision? This is the research question addressed in the next paper by Jingjun (David) Xu, Izak Benbasat, and Ronald T. Cenfetelli. The researchers use the product-uncertainty model to investigate how the potential convergence of recommendations from multiple sources influences the consumer’s acquisition decision. The online sources are other consumers, experts, and recommenders. The experiments reported and analyzed here show a nuanced interplay among these in influencing the potential buyer’s acceptance of the recommendations. Advice to the online merchants follows.

The adoption of an IS is the beginning of a long (it is hoped) road for the users, generally fraught with ambivalence as the positive and negative aspects of the system’s use are felt. This ambivalence is the object of paper by Hamed Qahri-Saremi and Ofir Turel. The authors report an empirical study of the users’ coping responses, ranging from the flexible ones to a spectrum of inflexible coping. The responses may result in the innovative adaptation of the system to the users’ perceived needs (and the users’ adaptation to the system) or lead to the discontinuance of the system use, with a range of intermediate possibilities, such as the users’ vacillation. In their work, the authors relate the users’ coping responses to the aspects of their personality. The approach is innovative and opens a new seam of post-adoption research.

Nathan W. Twyman, Steven J. Pentland, and Lee Spitzley address in their design-oriented work an important issue of the deployment of IS in the assessment of job applications. Deception in these documents is not unheard of, while job interviews and hiring decisions base themselves to a large degree on the applications and signals the applications send. The authors offer a design model for signal detection, starting at present with the signaling of the applicant’s truthfulness. The model is theoretically grounded and evaluated empirically. The work opens several avenues for the future researchers. First, the range of signals sent by the application and assessed by the proposed system will be certainly broadened in the future. Second, the approach can be deployed in a variety of interviewing use cases, with the aim of rooting out deception. Third, the use of such an approach can help in preventing bias and foster fairness in employment decisions.

Chatbots have come into common use. They have also met with a mixed reception. Can they be improved to meet with a higher approval rate by their conversational counterparts, the humans? Ryan M. Schuetzler, G. Mark Grimes, and Justin Scott Giboney ground themselves in the social presence theory to assess a range of chatbots, also known as conversational agents, with respect to their conversational skill, and the consequent user engagement and perceived “humanness.” The human attraction to anthropomorphic IT has been found contingent in prior research. The differences among the perception by the users of the agents considered in the paper are notable. The authors find that small improvements can lead to a highly improved human reception. There is no reason chatbots cannot be made more attractive to us with an enhanced conversational skill. Anyone familiar with Joseph Weizenbaum’s ELIZA Rogerian analyst, a chatbot avant la lettre, now some 55 years of age, knows this task is well within the human ken.