Sociological Traditions as a Complementary Lens to Better Understand Digital Transformation Policies

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Purpose: This paper aims to introduce how sociological traditions can provide a complementary, conceptual lens needed to better understand a country’s orientation in its digital transformation policies. While historically sociology has been used to study technological effects, introducing a sociological lens that considers broader macro digital policies can better complement a country’s national innovation system framework by highlighting where forms of acceleration and inertia in digital diffusion may or may not occur.

Design/methodology/approach: To formulate this lens, iterative literature reviews were conducted and four major sociological traditions (i.e. Durkheim, Functional-Utilitarian, Marxist and Micro-interactionist) were identified and integrated into one structure. The integrated structure was then applied to the French case of Minitel as a sample application. The French Minitel was selected because it is well-known and due to one of the author’s familiarity with the French culture. The description was based upon secondary data.

Findings: Through the use and application of this lens, the findings reveal that understanding a country’s specific orientation within a sociological tradition can help academics and practitioners determine what accelerates or provides inertia in the diffusion of new digital technologies within a country’s sociological frame. For the French Minitel, two dominant views seem to exist in France, the Durkheim and the Functional-Utilitarian view, which both affected the country’s path dependency in continued investments in Minitel.

Research limitations/implications: While policymakers are tasked with the development and implementation of digital transformation policies, a key consideration for both scholars and practitioners on digital policy and governance is to understand the broader macro ramifications of sociological frameworks on the evolving effects of digital transformation. While the authors provide a sample illustration, future research is needed to operationalize this lens and to apply it across various regions and countries in the development of new digital transformation policies.

Practical implications: As countries face considerable pressure to digitize their economies, policymakers require a better framework to advance the sociological aspects of digitization and its effects upon local institutions and actors in society. The paper provides a complementary lens that can better help them in this regard.

Originality/value: To date, policymakers and governments lack an integrated framework to understand the sociological effects of digital technologies and their diffusions along with their implications on societies such as on the framework of national innovation. The authors provide a sample integrated structure and sample application.


Online ahead of print 14 December 2021.