A theory of responsive design: A field study of corporate engagement with open source communities

Matt Germonprez, Julie E. Kendall, Kenneth E. Kendall, Lars Mathiassen, Brett Young, Brian Warner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


Although our general knowledge about open source communities is extensive, we are only beginning to understand the increasingly common practices by which corporations design software through engagement with these communities. In response, we combine design theorizing with field-study research (1) to analyze rich qualitative data from over 40 corporations participating in the Linux open source community and (2) to synthesize the observed corporate-open source community engagements into a new type of information systems design theory that we call responsive design. Empirically, we document how corporate participants in these contexts respond to market decisions, interdependent ideologies, and distributed relationships by continuously establishing and maintaining connections with community members; connections that stem from the social and material rules inherent in the open source community. Based on these observations, we create the theory of responsive design as a particular form of corporate software design which, beyond the inclusion of external participants, distinguishes itself from traditional monocentric design in which one corporation controls a dedicated team of software designers focused on solving an isolated and singular organizational problem. Guided by the principles of interconnection, opportunism, and domestication, we define responsive design as the kind of design approach that enables corporate participants to create and maintain productive design practices in response to the complex and dynamic landscapes of activities that are the foundation of corporate-communal engagements. We conclude with a discussion of the theoretical and practical implications of this newformof corporate software design.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)64-83
Number of pages20
JournalInformation Systems Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Management Information Systems
  • Information Systems
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Information Systems and Management
  • Library and Information Sciences


  • Corporations
  • Design theory
  • Engaged scholarship
  • Field study
  • Open source communities
  • Open source software
  • Responsive design
  • Thematic analysis


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