Social Networking Sites as an Emerging Organizational Form

8464661409_32aa7a26a6_zBecause the landscape of the digital industry is always changing, its organizational structures have to be more malleable in form; the development of this industry and its products has caused a departure from more rigid, traditional organizational structures. Among the newer structures, social networking sites (SNSs) have emerged as a significant area of study for researchers. As an extension of the study of SNSs as a distinct organizational structure, researchers are examining SNSs as a unique organizational form. Co-authors Matthew S. Weber, Janet Fulk and Peter Monge explore this subject in detail in their article, entitled, “The Emergence and Evolution of Social Networking Sites as an Organizational Form,” published in Management Communication Quarterly. The abstract for the paper:

A number of new organizational structures have emerged in recent years, including peer production networks, digitally organized social movements, and social networking sites (SNSs). Researchers have devoted considerable attention to these phenomena as groups and communities. This article takes a complementary approach by conceptualizing them as organizational forms, with focus on the emergence of
SNSs as a distinct organizational form. Community ecology theory is implemented to explicate the emergence and subsequent legitimation of organizational forms, Current Issue Coverproviding a foundation for understanding how new forms emerge through interaction with the surrounding environment. Industry data and historical records are utilized to illustrate the development of one specific form: online SNSs. This analysis demonstrates that legitimation is an ongoing process of replication of features, but legitimacy also occurs through recognition from adjacent populations. Findings illustrate the validity of alternative processes of form legitimacy.

You can read “The Emergence and Evolution of Social Networking Sites as an Organizational Form” from Management Communication Quarterly free for the next two weeks by clicking here. Want to know about the latest research from Management Communication Quarterly? Click here to sign up for e-alerts!

*Collage of social network logos credited to Tanja Cappell (CC)

Exploring the Politics of Labeling Through Wikileaks and The News of the World

business-man-1063650-m[We’re pleased to welcome Danielle Logue of the University of Technology Sydney. Dr. Logue recently collaborated with Stewart R. Clegg, also of the University of Technology Sydney, on their article “Wikileaks and The News of the World: The Political Circuitry of Labeling” from Journal of Management Inquiry.]

After my PhD, a colleague from Oxford went on to become a lawyer for Julian Assange. One day she posted a comment that said ““Defending an ‘enemy of state’…How a publishing organization, revealing human rights abuse, can be in same legal classification as Al Qaeda and the Taliban is just beyond me.” At the time I was starting on a new project that considered labels and categories, finding much organizational literature on labeling and categorizing focused within a market setting and the implications for firm valuations and evaluations. Yet, here was a case where the labeling of an organization was having profound impacts on people’s lives, none more than the founder of Wikileaks, Julian Assange. I spoke with my co-author, Professor Stewart Clegg, and after some research we found that organizational and management studies was one of the few disciplines that had not analyzed Wikileaks. In addition to its labeling, it’s a contentious organizational form (virtual, fluid, imprinted by its hacker founding) – we found this surprising and disappointing, yet it also afforded us an opportunity to investigate.

JMI_72ppiRGB_powerpointSerendipitously, we were writing this paper around the time of The News of the World scandal, which we observed in contrast to the media coverage that Wikileaks was receiving. We noted this in one version of the paper, and under the suggestion of our managing editor, we expanded the case comparison. An interesting conjuncture was created: on the one hand, Wikileaks exposes what it labels as the covert and hence illegitimate actions of government; in response, government labels such exposure as itself illegitimate; it is reported and commented on as such in media that are subsequently exposed as having been themselves involved in very similar practices of unauthorized access. This reinforced our political conception of labeling, and how Clegg’s classic “circuits of power” could be a useful analytical tool. Coupled with a return to Becker’s (1963) work on labeling and deviance, we argue how the politics of labeling reveal, reinforce and/or undermine existing power structures. Stampinky’s (2013) work on ‘how experts invented terrorism’ showed us a parallel case in the politicization, morality and rationality in the creation and use of the label “terrorist”, by various actors striving to claim credibility and establish positions of expertise (Stampinksy, 2013).

Theoretically, we feel this paper makes a modest contribution to refocusing labeling, category and classification work in organizational studies on how they are connected to and are used to build, reinforce, and reflect broader systems of value, meaning and power (Douglas, 1986). Further work is needed into the changing conditions of institutional work in the media associated with changes in the institutional logics of news dissemination and, more importantly, the security of those involved in increasing transparency in a context where powerful interests would prefer less.

NB: We thank managing editor, Professor Saku Mantere for maintaining the rage with us throughout this production process.

Becker, H. (1963) Outsiders. New York: Free Press.

Clegg, S. R. (1989) Frameworks of Power. London: Sage.

Douglas, M. (1986). How institutions think. USA: Syracuse University Press.

Stampnitzky, L. (2013). Disciplining Terror: How Experts Invented “Terrorism”. UK: Cambridge University Press.

You can read “Wikileaks and The News of the World: The Political Circuitry of Labeling” from Journal of Management Inquiry for free through the end of June by clicking here. Want to know about all the latest research like this? Click here to sign up for e-alerts from Journal of Management Inquiry.


cZfLy6ezDanielle M. Logue is senior lecturer in strategy, innovation, and organization at UTS Business School, University of Technology, Sydney. She obtained her PhD in management from Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, UK.

indexStewart R. Clegg is professor at the University of Technology, Sydney; director of the Centre for Management and Organization Studies Research; and a visiting professor at EM-Lyon and Nova School of Business and Economics, Lisboa.

Regulatory Roulette: Ladies and Gentlemen, Please Place Your Bets…

Editor’s note: We are pleased to welcome Kim Soin of the University of Exeter in the U.K. and Christian Huber of Helmut-Schmidt-University in Germany, whose article “The Sedimentation of an Institution: Changing Governance in U.K. Financial Services” is forthcoming in the Journal of Management Inquiry and now available in the journal’s OnlineFirst section.

Regulation matters, and failures of regulation, have serious consequences. Post financial crisis – and faced with the tricky situation that the UK banks are now seen as ‘too big to fail’ – there is a new urgency in re-thinking how banks should be regulated. There is no doubt that re-building public trust and reputation in the financial system presents a serious challenge to policy makers. Is the solution to regulatory failure more of the same, as the current response seems to suggest and despite the abolition of the Financial Services Authority? Or, should we be thinking about other forms of regulation?

UntitledHow did we get to the situation where certain styles of regulation seem to be part of the problem – and yet more of the same regulation is being posed as the solution? Or, to put it another way: how did different forms of regulation – usually perceived as failing – become ‘taken-for-granted’ solutions to the various problems of the UK banks? Our research suggests that ‘new’ forms of regulation rely much more on their (failed) predecessors than regulators might like to think.

‘Big Bang’, or the deregulation of the UK financial services sector in 1986, was the first comprehensive attempt to create a unified system of regulation within the UK financial sector. Promoted by a neo-liberalist ideology led by ‘Thatcherism’ in the UK, and ‘Reagonomics’ in the US, the regulatory ethos was one of non-intervention and a conviction that free market forces, healthy competition and self-regulation would provide effective regulation. Big Bang generated a framework of regulation that was, and is to this day, in a continuous state of development and modification. Since then, we have witnessed a cycle of failing regulation, deregulation and re-regulation – encompassing self-regulation, State regulation, market-based regulation and risk-based regulation – none of which have provided the solution of how best to regulate the banks. We have seen scandal after scandal, ranging from the pensions scandal in the late 1980s through to PPI mis-selling, the global financial crisis, and the LIBOR rate fixing scandal – amongst many others. Is anyone else dizzy yet?

JMI_72ppiRGB_150pixwBy tracing the development of UK financial regulation between 1986 and 2011 in the field of retail financial services in the UK, we identify four phases of regulation. Each phase is characterised by the (co)existence of four competing approaches to regulation: the profession-based, the State-based, the market-based as well as the market – and risk-based approach – but in each phase one prevails. We show how advocates of the different regulatory approaches (the profession, the State and the market) engaged in fierce competition fuelled by various scandals and explain how these failing approaches have led to taken-for-granted, State-led financial regulation in its current form.

Our findings identify four catalysts that contribute to the taken-for-granted nature of financial regulation: The evocation of neo-liberal ideologies, the appropriation of scandals, the growing number of stakeholders and the increasing organization of stakeholders. We argue that these four catalysts contributed to a form of institutionalization that can best be described by the metaphor of sedimentation – the layering of one regulatory approach upon the other, which ultimately led to the taken-for-granted nature of financial regulation.

What can policy makers and regulators take from this? First, it appears that there are no alternatives to financial services regulation: the concept of financial regulation is seen as an inevitable way to organize the financial services sector. The big question however, is still the same: what type of regulation should be implemented? Second, the days of ‘gentlemanly capitalism’ are dead: recent, and past events have shown that the profession is no longer trusted to self-regulate and the State has become a central actor in this process. Third, even when regulatory approaches (be it the profession, State or market) seemingly become obsolete, they leave behind a sediment that must be taken into consideration: regulators promoting new financial regulations need to be wary of the taken-for-granted legacy of prior approaches. Finally, a web of organizations is seen as necessary for effective financial regulation.

Untitled2A number of questions remain: Is it enough to focus on preventing the failures of the past repeating themselves, or do we need to think about how to avoid the failures that might emerge in the future? During the last twenty-five years we have witnessed the failure of each form of regulation (the profession, the State and the market). The proposed solution is yet more regulation of the ‘interventionist’ kind, the abolition of the FSA, the creation of two new regulators and a crack down on commission based reward structures. Sound familiar?

But why don’t we look to other sectors for solutions: professionalizing the industry  – similar to doctors and lawyers? Or introducing soft regulations – like the new BSI governance standard, guidelines and codes of good practice? What about the role of compliance cultures – the values and beliefs about the purpose and significance of regulation? Can good compliance be good business? How can the regulator promote this? Similarly, a new vision for managing compliance risk is required.

Regulation matters. It matters in the sense of being vital to building an effective and accountable financial environment. Serious thought needs to be given to the role of banks in society – so that banks (and regulators) can re-build public confidence, trust and reputation. As we enter a new era of financial regulation, surely it is time for some lateral and creative thinking? After all, the banks have been doing it for years.

Read “The Sedimentation of an Institution: Changing Governance in U.K. Financial Services” in the Journal of Management Inquiry.

Institutional Entrepreneurship

The State, Power, and Agency: Missing in Action in Institutional Theory?”, by Stewart Clegg of the University of Technology, Sydney, was one of the most frequently read articles in the Journal of Management Inquiry in 2010. Stewart has provided a brief reflection on the article:

The story behind the article is quite simple: I was invited to speak at a one-day conference at the University of New South Wales Australian Business School on Institutional Theory. The conference was built around a visit by Roy Suddaby to the School. The conference organisers asked me to address the introduction to the as then forthcoming Handbook of Institutional Theory of which Roy was a co-editor. The introduction was pretty hard to get into because it was discussing the chapters in the handbook – none of which, of course, I had read. Moreover, when Roy made his presentation he didn’t really stick to the introduction anyway. I had prepared a few critical remarks about institutional theory that came from my interest and work in power. To my surprise roy seemed to agree with most of the remarks that I made. The paper had a particular construction. Thinking of examples to make my points I came up with a number of examples that drew on the state and on questions of agency, hence the title of the paper. It was never intended as much more than a quick conference paper but someone, I am not sure who but it was probably Roy, suggested that i send it to the JMI because they might be interested – so I did and they were. The reviewers were broadly supportive and suggested a few changes, which I duly made. I never imagined that it would generate a great deal of interest as i am not probably thought of as a member of the institutional theory camp – although I guess I could be; however, I have always tended to try and resist labelling in the interests of nomadic theorizing.

I think that the interest in the article arose because it put the finger on some of the more mechanical aspects of institutional theory and suggested that the theory has a conservative political bias, that it is really a modern representation of functionalist theory – with all its flaws. For many younger researchers today functionalism is probably something they never leaned about in graduate school – perhaps because it was largely a sociological debate and a debate that occurred before they were born. So the idea that what appears as new theory is actually quite old might have seemed an innovative idea. The paper reported no empirical research but it did reflect my abiding interest in all forms of politics, from which I drew the cases that I used as examples.

Overall, the paper is closely related to a project that has just given birth to a new Sage book, Strategy: Theory and Practice (Clegg, Carter, Kornberger and Schweitzer 2011). This project is one of repositioning Management and Organization Theory, in this case Strategy, in a frame in which power relations are paramount, essential and central. Thus the paper forms a part of a series of works; for instance, some of the ideas in the paper were first canvassed in The Sage Handbook of Power (Clegg & Haugaard 2009). In turn, the paper was related to earlier interventions in the journal Strategic Organization, which addressed the incoherence of fashionable strategy-as-practie positions. In all these cases the analysis that i made reached back into ethnomethodological studies with a power twist. Such work has been a key element in my thinking for the past 35 years, so in some respects, there wasn’t a lot that was new for me in the paper – but to the extent that it has not been incorporated into mainstream positions the arguments might have seemed new to those who were not familiar with my work. Either that or there was a demand for my work that I never knew about! I don’t know which of these might be correct.

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