Structure, Content and Meaning of Organizational Networks: Volume 53

Cover of Structure, Content and Meaning of Organizational Networks

Extending Network Thinking

Subject:

Table of contents

(12 chapters)

Prelims

Pages i-viii
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Abstract

Organizational fields are shaped by both the relations that organizations forge and the language they express. The structure and discourse of organizational fields have been studied before, but seldom in combination. We offer a methodological approach that integrates relations and expressions into a comprehensive visualization.

By mapping networks and discourse as co-constitutive, the method illuminates the mechanisms active in organizational fields. We utilize social impact evaluation as an issue field shaped by the presence of an interstitial community, and compare this structure with simulated alternative field configurations.

The simulations reveal that variation in organizations’ openness to adopting concepts from adjacent meaning systems alters field configurations: differentiation manifests under conditions of low overall openness, whereas moderate receptivity produces hybridizations of discourses and sometimes the emergence of an interstitial community that bridges domains. If certain organizations are open while others remain focused on their original discourse, then we observe integration in the discursive domain of the invariant organizations.

The observations from the simulations are represented by visualizing organizational fields as topographies of meaning, onto which interorganizational relations are layered. This representation localizes organizations and their interactions in a cultural space while emphasizing how meanings of relationships and organizational expressions vary with different field configurations. By adding meaning to network data, the resulting maps open new perspectives for institutional research on the adaptation, translation, and diffusion of concepts.

Abstract

Organizations from the same industry or field often tend to become more similar over time, despite being different in terms of for example strategies, goals, or performance. However, recently scholars pointed out that organizational fields are dynamic entities with permeable boundaries, thus indicating that prior literature may have oversimplified the phenomenon. Indeed, in this paper we draw attention to an organizational field that centers on text, and revolves around shared (or debated) meaning stemming from that text. The guiding research question is, “To what extent do organizations converge or diverge from meaning embedded in interconnected text?” We investigate party manifestos and press releases of organizations from the field of politics, focusing on the topic of immigration. We extract meaning from these texts, using document scaling and similarity analysis. Our results show that while most parties become more similar in their framing of immigration, the anti-immigrant PVV actually radicalizes further and as a result takes an isolated position in the policy space. Thus, Dutch political organizations became similar (converge) as well as different (diverge) over time through interaction, in terms of their shared meaning systems. This paper substantiates findings of isomorphic tendencies of organizations within a shared organizational field. At the same time, we find that Dutch politics constitute an issue field, where parties compete about meanings and framings on controversial issues. Our analysis shows that meaning embedded in texts changes over time; this indicates that change mechanisms in organizational fields may be brought about through changes in meaning systems.

Abstract

We study organizational vocabularies as complex social structures emerging from the association between organizational participants and words they use to describe and make sense of their experiences at work. Using data that we have collected on the association between managers in a multi-unit international company and words they use to describe their organizational units and the overall company, we examine the relational micro-mechanisms underlying the observed network structure of organizational vocabularies. We find that members of the same subsidiary tend to become more similar in terms of the words they use to describe their units. Members of the same subsidiary, however, do not use the same words to describe the corporate group. Consequently, the structure of organizational vocabularies tends to support consistent local interpretations, but reveals the presence of divergent meanings that organizational participants associate with the superordinate corporate group.

Abstract

The social and cultural duality perspective suggests dual ordering of interpersonal ties and cultural similarities. Studies to date primarily focus on cultural similarities in interpersonal dyads driven by principles such as homophily and contagion. We aim to extend these principles for sociocultural networks and investigate potentially competing micro-principles that generate these networks, taking into account not only direct dyadic overlap between interpersonal ties and cultural structures, but also the indirect interplay between the social and the cultural.

The empirical analysis utilizes social and semantic network data gathered through ethnographic studies of five creative organizations around Europe. We apply exponential random graph models (ERGMs) for multiplex networks to model the simultaneous operation of several generative principles of sociocultural structuring yielding multiplex dyads and triads that combine interpersonal ties with meaning sharing links.

The results suggest that in addition to the direct overlap of shared meanings and interpersonal ties, sociocultural structure formation is also affected by extra-dyadic links. Namely, expressive interpersonal ties with common third persons condition meaning sharing between individuals, while meaning sharing with common alters leads to interpersonal collaborations. Beyond dyads, the dual ordering of the social and the cultural thus operates as asymmetrical with regard to different types of interpersonal ties.

The paper shows that in addition to direct dyadic overlap, network ties with third parties play an important role for the co-constitution of the social and the cultural. Moreover, we highlight that the concept of network multiplexity can be extended beyond social networks to investigate competing micro-principles guiding the interplay of social and cultural structures.

Abstract

The conception of markets as interfaces connecting semi-autonomous systems of producers and customers has led to an extensive use of social network analysis. So far, the network focus has been on connections among people, paying less attention to the crucial role played by connections between cultural elements (e.g., concepts, representations, ideas) in the way markets are formed and sustained. Such connections constitute “semantic networks” and are the focus of the present article. We attend to them by developing a network view of the cultural dimension of markets and apply it in an empirical setting where culture plays a crucial role – luxury watchmaking – to illustrate the impact of market semantic networks on a major outcome: price.

Abstract

Drawing on insights from a yearlong ethnography and in-depth survey of the members of a Buddhist monastery located in the heart of modern Europe, we examine how members of the organization come to be more or less involved in the organization and in its core institutional logic. Here we present an exploratory analysis of how individuals’ beliefs about Buddhism and its relationship to everyday life are deeply intertwined with and articulated into different regimes of organizational activities, rituals, and religious practices. Borrowing from institutional logics theory, we use methods for illustrating the relational structure that articulates dualities linking beliefs and practices together. We show that dually ordered assemblages can reveal different types of logics embraced by different members of an organization. Our principal contention is that the greater the structural alignment between an individual’s belief structure, their repertoire of practices, and the institutional logic of the organization, the more well integrated that individual will likely be within the organization, the higher the probability of transformational changes of personal identity, as well as the greater probability of overall success in organizational membership recruitment and retention.

Abstract

Philosophical reflection is a reflection of a school’s organizational structure. This study employs formal and computational methods to examine closely the culture/structure duality in the Frankfurt School’s formation and fragmentation over several decades by examining the homology between its social and conceptual networks.

On the one side, I produce social structural data from archival research on the Frankfurt School’s set of social relations. On the other side, I use computer-assisted textual analysis to produce concept maps of key texts by the same thinkers. Analyzing these networks jointly, I then investigate the dyadic social and cultural processes that contributed to the school’s fragmentation and show that:

  1. The Frankfurt School’s social structure and idea structure were positively correlated over three decades as the school moved from an era of social and intellectual coherence to an era of fragmentation.

  2. While we normally imagine the duality of structure and culture as a positive correlation between social and cultural relations, it can also appear as a strong negative correlation. Leo Löwenthal’s expulsion from the school is such a case. As a peripheral member, Löwenthal’s attempt to engage more strongly with the school’s core ideas was interpreted as presumptuous and low quality by core members who strictly policed the social and intellectual structure of the school. As a result of his ambition, Löwenthal was expelled.

The Frankfurt School’s social structure and idea structure were positively correlated over three decades as the school moved from an era of social and intellectual coherence to an era of fragmentation.

While we normally imagine the duality of structure and culture as a positive correlation between social and cultural relations, it can also appear as a strong negative correlation. Leo Löwenthal’s expulsion from the school is such a case. As a peripheral member, Löwenthal’s attempt to engage more strongly with the school’s core ideas was interpreted as presumptuous and low quality by core members who strictly policed the social and intellectual structure of the school. As a result of his ambition, Löwenthal was expelled.

This paper develops a semantic network approach to analyzing the relation between structural and cultural ties while illustrating the complex ways in which cultural and structural facets of a philosophical school develop in a duality.

Abstract

In this essay, we argue that understanding of meaning in relation to organizational networks warrants a more prominent place in organizational theorizing, because it fulfils a distinct role in the emergence and evolution of networks. Whereas prior studies have tended to address network structures or narrative structures, we suggest that organizational processes might be better understood when addressing the role of meaning and network structures simultaneously. We explain the implications of our argument in an online context, given the growing significance of digitally enabled networks on organizational sociality, and draw on examples in the context of organizational knowledge sharing to support our argument. We conclude by introducing a communication flow model to support the further development of research on organizational meaning networks.

About the Authors

Pages 231-235
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Index

Pages 237-244
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Cover of Structure, Content and Meaning of Organizational Networks
DOI
10.1108/S0733-558X201753
Publication date
2017-09-26
Book series
Research in the Sociology of Organizations
Editors
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-1-78714-434-7
eISBN
978-1-78714-433-0
Book series ISSN
0733-558X