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Stewart Clegg (University of Technology, Sydney)
Emmanuel Josserand (University of Geneva)
Ajay Mehra (University of Kentucky)
Tyrone Pitsis (University of Technology, Sydney)
Deadline for paper submissions: September 2013
Once a fringe concern for organization scholars, largely of interest to community and social movement scholars, the study of social networks has taken centre-stage across a range of disciplines, from physics (e.g., Newman, Barabasi, & Watts, 2006) to economics (e.g., Jackson, 2008). This explosion in popularity is perhaps nowhere more visible than in the field of management where network research has already generated a “large research tradition” (Brass, Galaskiewicz, Greve, & Tsai, 2004: 809).
Research interested in the dynamically complex nature of networks is attracting increasing attention – As seen with the special issue of Organization Science in 2008. The dynamism of social networks constitutes “the new social morphology of our societies ... power of flows takes precedence over the flows of power” (Castells, 1996:500). Informed by Castells, we can say that we live in a a network society, but also that it is a network society of increasingly networked organizations. With advances in technologies, networks are constantly changing and co-evolving, presenting agential properties that make them significant social actants.
Networks are powerful carriers of new social norms, values and practices that contribute to innovative institutionalization. In this sense, networks can be tools to influence context, corresponding to the practices of network entrepreneurs. By creating and generating new flows through networks they create and maintain a contextual situation favourable to their objectives. But even in such flows, networks are still often considered as inert and invariant diffusion channels (Owen-Smith & Powell, 2008). While networks are inherently dynamic, their connections are not always positive – they can become a liability, due to shifts in the environment; conversely, they can show unexpected relevance, leading to innovation and transformations, be it organizational, inter-organizational or social, as events shape their relevance and acuity. Transformation initially encouraged by an actor or actors through networks can become a threat, creating resistance and counter-resistance.
Networks, therefore, are not as manageable or as predictable as some organization theorists might suggest, and research on the management of network dynamics is underdeveloped. There is valid reason for this lack of knowledge: network transformation is a complex phenomenon and its measurement and analysis – let alone the challenges of collecting longitudinal network data – pose many problems, both technical and conceptual (for a review, see Doreian & Stokman, 2005). New insight can therefore be gained by considering networks as agential actors, and not only as structures (Keck and Sikkink, 1998, Kahler, 2009). Organizations often fail in network transformations because they tend to stick to the illusion that networks are instrumental webs that provide reliable and stable access to resources and manageable and predictable innovations. They thus neglect the power of networks and their transformative force as social actants. From political resistance in totalitarian states to communities of consumers, networks have always been core in shifting the flows of power.
The purpose of this special issue is to understand the organizational and societal implications of social networks in action. Our goal is to publish thoughtful and provocative papers that advance our ability to conceptualize, measure, manage and advise network emergence and evolution within and across organizational boundaries, as well as to assess the impact of such networks on society. Although our aim is to be broadly inclusive, we are especially interested in papers that advance understanding of the management of network dynamics and resulting power relations within and between organizations. We invite contributions from organizational scholars, irrespective of their theoretical or methodological orientation, that cover questions such as the following:
This list of questions is clearly suggestive rather than exhaustive. Again, we welcome submissions irrespective of their disciplinary or methodological orientation as long as they are consistent with our broad goal of advancing our understanding of the management of network dynamics and its impact on society.
Brass, D.J., Galaskiewicz, J., Greve, H.R., & Tsai W. (2004). Taking stock of networks and organizations: A multilevel perspective. Academy of Management Journal, 47, 795-819.
Castells, M. (1996) The Rise of the Network Society, The Information Age: Economy, Society and
Culture Vol. I. Cambridge, MA, Oxford, UK: Blackwell.
Doreian, P., & Stokman, F.N. (2005). Evolution of Social Networks. Routledge, London.
Jackson, M. O. (2008) Social and economic networks. Princeton University Press, Princeton.
Kahler, M. (Ed.) (2009) Networked politics : agency, power, and governance, Ithaca, Cornell University Press.
Keck, M. E. & Sikkink, K. (1998) Activists beyond borders : advocacy networks in international politics, Ithaca, N.Y., Cornell University Press.
Newman, M., Barabasi, A., & Watts, D.J. (2006) The structure and dynamics of networks. Princeton University Press, Princeton.
Owen-Smith, J. & Powell, W.W. (2008) Networks and Institutions. In R. Greenwood, Oliver, C., Sahlin, K. & Suddaby, R. (Eds.) The SAGE Handbook of Organizational Institutionalism. Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, California.
Please submit papers as email attachments (MicrosoftWord files only) to the Editorial Office [log in to unmask], indicating in the e-mail the title of the Special Issue. Please prepare manuscripts according to the guidelines shown at www.egosnet.org. All papers will be blind reviewed following OS’s normal review process and criteria. Any papers accepted for publication but not included in the Special Issue will be published later, in a regular issue.
For further information please contact one of the Guest Editors for this Special Issue: