The third meeting of our Scientific Network focused on relations of organizations and individuals as an aspect that is fundamental to understanding field-configuring events (FCEs). The meeting took place during May 19-21, 2014 at the Freie Universität Berlin. The two international guests and keynotes were Amalya Oliver (Professor of Sociology at the Hebrew University Jerusalem, Israel) and Joseph Lampel (Professor of Strategy and Innovation at the Cass Business School, London / UK).
Elke Schüßler opened the meeting by briefly presenting the previous work of the network and introducing relevant research questions pertaining to FCEs and relations. After a brief introduction to the motivation of the network partners and a warm welcome round of introductions across participants, the meeting moved on to discussing the seminal text by Mark Granovetter on the “Strength of Weak Ties”, which was presented by Uli Meyer (TU Berlin, Germany). Uli, who had met Granovetter personally while at Stanford, elucidated the background of Granovetter’s study with its focus on how people get a job and sensitized us for the use and frequent misuse of Granovetter’s conception.
After a first round of coffee and snacks we listened to the first keynote by Joe Lampel on "Unconferences as Field-Configuring Events". He offered insights from a venue that he visited in Turkey where participants discussed topics related to the internet. This meeting was highly unstructured when compared to what usually counts as field-configuring events and was thus called “unconference” (related terms include barcamps or meet-ups). Joe stressed that the FCE concept should not be viewed only from a neo-institutional perspective, but should remain open to a wide range of approaches in order to be sensitive to such phenomena as unconferences. In his presentation he connected the idea of FCEs to Fligstein’s work on social skills, analyzing which skills actors can bring to FCEs, to Bourdieu concerning different forms of resources and capital, and to Weick’s notion of sensemaking. What is more, Joe sensitized us for a gradual understanding of (un)conferences in the light of FCE research.
After lunch, Guido Möllering (Jacobs University Bremen, Germany) and Helge Svare (Work Research Institute, Norway) presented findings from a study of three Norwegian networks that built trust by meeting and convening. Towards this end they viewed events also as nexus for building and maintaining networks (rather than fields), while being inextricably intertwined with affecting trust across organizations.
Then Joachim Thiel from the HafenCity University Hamburg (Germany) reported his activities regarding the connection of so called smart city conceptions and FCEs. He offered insights into the various smart city conferences that coexist to establish and maintain a field of FCEs related to smart city conceptions. From a theoretical perspective he contrasted a rather harmonious view (in line with the conceptions of Scott, Powell, DiMaggio and others) vis-à-vis a conflict-laden view (in line with Bourdieu) on FCE. What is more, he elucidated that events from the FCE line of inquiry have been primarily researched as venues of competition ‘within events’ (such as e.g. the Grammy awards), but have rarely shed light on FCE as competing for reputation, legitimation, attention etc., either within or across event series.
In a related talk on FCEs in urban regions, Jan-Henrik Voss from the Technical University of Berlin (Germany) reported on purposeful change in cities. He classified cities as a non-market environment and argued that cities consist of a number of different actors with different logics. He introduced a perspective that focuses on capabilities to explain how cities might act purposefully. Towards this end, one of the key objectives of cities ought to be to establish common frames of reference.
After another coffee break we took a campus tour to follow the traces of Nobel Prize winners that taught or researched in the area and buildings surrounding the FU Berlin. We saw the grave of Clara Immerwahr, a talented chemist and the first women to be awarded a doctorate in chemistry in Germany, who was married to Fritz Haber, Director of the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institute for Physical Chemistry. Haber became responsible for developing chemical weapons in the WW I period, resulting in the first ever use of weapons of mass destruction. An avid pacifist, Immerwahr asked her husband to stop his work, but when he didn’t, she shot herself out of desperation.
In the evening Amalya Oliver and Joe Lampel gave a joint keynote speech in the course of the open lecture series “Forschungswerkstatt” at the School of Business Administration of the FU Berlin. Their presentation was entitled “Inter-Organizational Committees as Field Configuring Events: The Case of Israel’s High Tech Industry” and told the fascinating history of the industry’s development resulting from a meeting of military and government officials.
We finished the first day of the workshop with a joint dinner.
The second day was marked by more open discussion formats. First, Amalya provided us with comprehensive “food for thought” regarding the role of relations in the study of FCEs and, based on her extensive research experience in this field, we discussed methodological opportunities and challenges. Then Elke and Clemens presented their conceptual contribution to FCE research derived from their study of climate summits, the analytical distinction between temporal boundedness and interactional openness, and the group discussed the value and implications of this distinction.
(by Gordon Müller-Seitz and Elke Schüßler)
19.05.2014 - 21.05.2014
Freie Universität Berlin