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Theorizing beyond the horizon: Service research in 2050

Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to introduce the special issue of the Journal of Service Management dedicated to the Thought Leadership in Services Conference held in Brisbane Australia in 2017. The paper also explores the disruptive and transformative role that technology is set to play over the next 30 years. Design/methodology/approach – The paper provides a brief summary of the papers within the special issue. The paper also introduces a conceptual framework identifying four quadrants that reflect different combinations of human touch and technology. This framework is used to examine the treatment of technology in the eight papers. Findings – While it is clear that technology is having a profound impact on service and is contributing to major changes within the eight service domains captured by the papers in the special issue; there were significant differences observed across the eight papers in the special issue. From the associated discussion, it is clear that the humanistic paradigm is still dominant within services, even though there is strong evidence that a shift is occurring. Originality/value – This paper extends earlier work exploring the infusion of technology within services to highlight the progress from a humanistic paradigm to a technology-centric paradigm.