36th EGOS Colloquium
Organizing for a Sustainable Future:
Responsibility, Renewal & Resistance
University of Hamburg
July 2–4, 2020
36th EGOS Colloquium
July 2–4, 2020
Digitally-enabled institutional arrangements, such as new organizational forms, are increasingly changing the rules of
the game in many industries and fields (Hinings et al., 2018). Consider the following examples: Platforms, such as TripAdvisor,
restructured entire evaluation systems in the tourism industry – moving from an expert-based model (based on an episodic,
standardized review by professionals) to a crowd-based model, that is continuously harnessing and aggregating consumer’s evaluations
(Orlikowski & Scott, 2014). Despite meeting resistance by regulators, Uber and Airbnb gained legitimacy for disrupting,
disintermediating and reconfiguring the delivery of taxi and accommodation services (Bauer & Gegenhuber, 2015; Mair &
Reischauer, 2017). Organizations in the diamond industry have begun to mobilize support for a transparent, blockchain-based
model of tracking diamonds from production to end-consumer in order to weed out conflict diamonds (Iansiti & Lakhani,
2017; Seidel, 2018).
Although lagging behind other research fields, such as information systems research or the technology and innovation management literature, institutional theorists are increasingly attentive to the role and impact of digitalization (Davis, 2016; Deephouse et al., 2017; Hinings et al., 2018; Hinings & Meyer, 2018; Powell et al., 2016). There is no doubt that digitally-enabled institutional arrangements permeate and reshape industries and fields, challenging power structures and meaning systems. This presents a significant opportunity for institutional theorists to probe further into how actors leveraging digital technologies can transform the very ways in which institutions are created, complemented, threatened or destroyed. For instance, Powell et al. (2016) demonstrate how actors use social media technologies in the early stages of institutionalization processes. These technologies aid ventures, bloggers or activists alike to introduce novel ideas into a field by circumventing traditional stakeholders, reaching large audiences and making their ideas understandable and easily adoptable (see also Gegenhuber & Dobusch, 2017; Hannigan et al., 2018). Etter and colleagues (2019) make the case that social media plays a critical role in the formation of social judgments, resulting, however, in increasingly fragmented and multi-vocal audience judgments (see also Glozer et al., 2018). Conversely, however, Kornberger and colleagues (2017) indicate that rating mechanisms in various platforms fuel homogenized social evaluations.
Using this emerging work as a vantage point, we envisage this sub-theme as an invitation to explore the interplay of novel digital technologies and institutional processes, including processes of institutional emergence, change, institutionalization and de-institutionalization. We therefore call for empirical (qualitative, quantitative, mixed-methods) or conceptual papers addressing the ‘digitalization of institutional theory’, particularly speaking to one of the following research themes:
Institutionalization mechanisms and processes
Novel digitally-enabled institutional arrangements, that is a bundle of legitimate practices, values and actor constellations intertwined with digital technologies, may rearrange institutionalization mechanisms such as inter-organizational monitoring (e.g., Tolbert & Zucker, 1996), theorization (e.g., Strang & Meyer, 1993), and interest group advocacy or resistance (e.g., Lounsbury, 2001). This raises the question: how do novel digital institutional arrangements based on technologies such as social media, blockchain, artificial intelligence, or algorithms, reconfigure institutionalization mechanisms and processes? For instance, how does leveraging social media affect (de-)legitimation processes of a new venture? How does the interplay of ‘new’ arrangements (e.g., social media) and ‘old’ institutional arrangements (e.g., traditional media) mediate these processes?
Emergence of novel actors and agency
Corporations, such as Apple, Amazon, Google/Alphabet, and Facebook are powerful actors providing and controlling critical infrastructure of a digital economy. It is in these infrastructures, in which many processes of institutionalization take place. Hence, how does their infrastructure impact institutionalization processes? How do these actors make use of their dominant positions to affect these?
Another aspect is that institutional theory posits that professions such as law or medicine are critical arbiters in enacting institutional arrangements. Who are the arbiters in a digital economy (e.g. (data)analysts, programmers, algorithms)? What new logics or values does certain digital infrastructure infuse, embed or reinforce in organizations (Berendte & Yoo, 2010)? Relatedly, and building on the rich literature of socio-materiality (Leonardi & Barley, 2010; Orlikowski & Scott, 2008), how can we account for the emergence of new (artificial) actors or the displacement of other actors by artificial intelligence? And furthermore, how can we theorise artificial agency in institutional contexts?
Fields and their infrastructures
Fields (exchange or issue fields) and their respective field infrastructures are essential in understanding the emergence and diffusion of novel institutional arrangements (Zietsma et al., 2017; Hinings et al., 2017). New organizational forms, such as digital platforms and their ecosystems often seek to become arbiter of a subfield within a field (e.g. Apple and Android within the mobile phone industry). How can an understanding of fields inform understandings of digital platform ecosystems (Jacobides et al., 2018; Ozalp et al., 2018)?
Digital platforms also enable more loosely coupled forms of cross-field collaboration, or emerge at the intersections of fields or between fields, intermediating in different ways to traditional boundary organizations (Randhawa et al., 2017). They may be used to pursue a range of goals, both for-profit and for the production of social good (Logue & Grimes, 2018). Research, thus, may ask how novel digital institutional arrangements change the way how we understand negotiation processes within fields, and the interaction and mutual dependence between and across fields and subfields (Furnari, 2016).