Sub-theme 13: (SWG) Reflecting on Institutionalizing Creativity: The Role of Material Form and Practices in Creative Industries

Eva Boxenbaum, MINES ParisTech, France, & Copenhagen Business School, Copenhagen, Denmark
Candace Jones, Boston College, USA
Massimo Maoret, IESE Business School, Spain

Call for Papers

Our sub-theme explores how artists and other creative actors generate artifacts that express new ideas and provide audiences with new experiences through their material forms. Recently, scholars have indeed started to explore how material and symbolic dimensions of artifacts from the creative industries influence their acceptance and institutionalization (Jones et al., 2012; Jones & Massa, 2013). The interaction between the artifact and the audience's responses may consolidate over time into established styles and practices. The goal of this sub-theme is to extend this line of research by exploring how artifacts' material forms produce aesthetic responses that shape which practices become institutionalized in creative industries.

We highlight two dimensions for potential analysis: aesthetics and practices. Within creative industries, aesthetics is a central concern and experience. Aesthetic experiences refer to feelings and judgments about "what is beautiful, moving or sublime" (Charters, 2006: 236). These experiences not only engage social actors in the experience of awe, but also differentiate products for companies and drive consumer choices (Eisenman, 2013; Hagtvedt & Patrick, 2008). Aesthetics is expressed in the social realm through language, specifically emotive words and metaphors, and visual forms and appearances (Meyer et al., 2013), which become institutionally embedded in audiences (Battilana et al., 2009) and may create an emotional attachment by audiences to a particular artifact (Jones & Massa, 2013). Aesthetic responses of audiences may align into expectations for types of material expression; this alignment, however, also prompts creative actors to search for new aesthetic expressions and material innovations that trigger fads and fashions (Simmel, 1957; Martindale, 1990). The role of aesthetics in institutional processes constitutes a fruitful and insufficiently examined topic of institutional inquiry (Suddaby, 2010).

Practices constitute a second dimension for analysis and are central to the study of creative industries and the arts (Bourdieu, 1992; 1996) and to institutionalization processes (Boxenbaum & Battilana, 2005; Lawrence et al., 2013). Within creative industries and arts, a Bourdieusian perspective tends to dominate the literature. In this perspective, practices connect structure and agency within a field, and thus explain how social systems are produced and reproduced. Actors' socialization may constrain what cultural and symbolic capital is deployed by whom, but also provides the basis by which actors manoeuver within and move social systems. Actors may engage in symbolic violence to wrench or alter the social system.

Few scholars have examined how artists use aesthetic elements to alter or reproduce the practices of their art world. Artifacts that evoke aesthetic responses can be a powerful motivating force for practices; whether they are adopted, changed or discarded. Whether actors use symbolic and aesthetic elements and audiences' aesthetic responses converge and constrain practices or drive innovations and the creation of new artistic practices is an open question.

We seek papers that examine institutional processes in creative industries; we are particularly interested in how material form and aesthetic experiences may crystallize into socially endorsed notions of what is beautiful and into institutionalized patterns of practice. The following non-exhaustive list presents some research questions that are welcomed in our sub-theme:

  • How are new ideas encoded into the material form of artifacts within the creative industries? Who is responsible for this encoding – artists, gatekeepers who offer opportunities to showcase and produce new artifacts, or critics who endorse and spread new ideals?
  • How do audience responses to creative artifacts stabilize into new aesthetics that become widely endorsed by particular communities within the creative industries?
  • How does artifact design influence the acceptance of an artifact (and the ideas it conveys) among consumers and other audiences that are external to the creative industries?
  • How does the material form of an artifact shape emergent patterns of practice (or maintain established practices) within the creative industries? How does the tangible or visual form of an artifact shape the emergence of practices related to its use among consumers and audiences outside the creative industries?




  • Battilana, J., Leca, B., & Boxenbaum, E. (2009): "How actors change institutions: toward a theory of institutional entrepreneurship." Academy of Management Annals, 3 (1), 65–107.
  • Bourdieu, P. (1992): The Logic of Practice. Paolo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press.
  • Bourdieu, P. (1996): The Rules of Art: Genesis and Structure of the Literary Field. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
  • Boxenbaum, E., & Battilana, J. (2005): "Importation as innovation: Transposing managerial practices across fields." Strategic Organization, 3 (4), 355–383.
  • Charters, S. (2006): "Aesthetic products and aesthetic consumption: A review." Consumption, Markets and Culture, 9 (3), 235–255.
  • Eisenman, M. (2013): "Understanding aesthetic innovation in the context of technological evolution." Academy of Management Review, 38 (3), 332–351.
  • Hagtvedt, H. & Patrick, V.M. (2008): "Art infusion: the influence of visual art on the perception and evaluation of consumer products." Journal of Marketing Research, 45, pp. 379–389.
  • Jones, C., Maoret, M., Massa, F., & Svejenova, S. (2012): "Rebels with a cause: formation, contestation, and expansion of the de novo category 'Modern Architecture', 1870–1975." Organization Science, 23 (6), 1523–1545.
  • Jones, C., & Massa, F. (2013): From novel practice to consecrated exemplar: Unity Temple as a case of institutional evangelizing." Organization Studies, 34 (8), 1099–1136.
  • Lawrence, T. Leca, B., & Zilber, T. (2013): "Institutional work: current research, new directions and overlooked issues." Organization Studies, 34 (8), 1023–1033.
  • Martindale, C. (1990): The Clockwork Muse: The Predictability of Artistic Change. New York: Basic Books.
  • Meyer, R.E., Höllerer, M.A., Jancsary, D., & van Leeuwen, T. (2013): "The visual dimension in organizing, organization, and organization research: Core ideas, current developments, and promising avenues." Academy of Management Annals, 7 (1), 489–555.
  • Simmel, G. (1957): "Fashion." American Journal of Sociology, 62 (6), 541–558.
  • Suddaby, R. (2010): "Challenges for institutional theory." Journal of Management Inquiry, 19 (1), 14–20.


Eva Boxenbaum is Professor of Management at MINES ParisTech, France, and Copenhagen Business School, Denmark. She uses qualitative methods to research the role of actors and artifacts in processes of institutional innovation and the emergence of new ideas and management practices.
Candace Jones is an Associate Professor in the Management and Organizations Department at Boston College, USA. She uses a vocabulary approach to study change in institutions and institutional logics, focusing on material practices and symbolic elements.
Massimo Maoret is an Assistant Professor in the Strategic Management Department of IESE Business School, Spain. His research advances understanding of how social networks determine success, defined either as performance or institutionalization, at multiple analysis levels.