Thursday, July 3, 2008

25 Years of Electronic Markets Research

At the ICIS conference in Montreal (December 10, 2007) Bruce Weber (LBS) and I organized a panel with Yannis Bakos (New York University), Thomas W. Malone (MIT), Robert I. Benjamin (Syracuse University), and Rolf T Wigand (University of Arkansas). Here is my welcome statement:

"It is an honor for me to welcome you to this panel with the topic “electronic markets: theory and evidence from twenty years of research”. Twenty years ago Tom Malone, Yoanne Yates, and Bob Benjamin wrote their very influential article “electronic markets and electronic hierarchies”. That article is a point of reference for most of us and after eighty-seven we came in a roller coaster called electronic markets – think of the early examples like Aucnet, think of the boom and bust of electronic markets makers around 2000, think about the giant successes of online auctioneers like eBay and Google.

In this panel we will look back to the roller coaster we were in the last 20 years and create a moment of reflection before we are heading for the next roller coaster (roller coaster 2.0 as we use to call it in our field). At my first ICIS in New York in 1991 people asked me what I was doing and I explained that my research was about electronic auctions with flowers and then most people would stare at me as if I was coming from Mars (I was actually coming from the Netherlands!). Nowadays electronic auctions are everywhere as the new routers in the packet-switching economy.

In this panel we ask ourselves some questions and here I will borrow from the Mars story of Herbert Simon in his 1991 paper “Organizations and Markets”. Simon said:
“Imagine a mythical visitor coming from Mars approaching the Earth with a telescope that reveals social structure (p.27). The firms are shown as solid green areas, market transaction are red lines connecting firms. No matter which economy our visitor approached, the green areas would be the dominant feature of the landscape”.

Related to the impact of IT our questions are: Did we see the last twenty years more dark green (electronic hierarchies) or more dark red lines (electronic markets).
And what could explain from a theoretical point of view the changes. And what is the next step?

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