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06.09.2016 - 07.09.2016

5th Workshop - FCEs and Unexpected Events

The fifth meeting of our Scientific Network opened up the research agenda on field-configuring events (FCEs) towards other kinds of events of a less “organized”, possibly unexpected nature. The meeting took place during April 20-21, 2015 at the Freie Universität Berlin. The two international guests and keynotes were Cynthia Hardy (Professor of Management and Marketing at the University of Melbourne) and Steve Maguire (Professor of Strategy and Organization at McGill University). Both have worked on FCEs in their paper on “Discourse, field-configuring events, and change in organizations and institutional fields: Narratives of DDT and the Stockholm Convention”, but are now studying risk and thus focus more on events of a more unexpected nature. At FU Berlin a number of scholars are interested in the nature of uncertainty and ways of managing and organizing uncertainy, and our aim in this workshop was to bring these different debates together and start a possibly fruitful exchange. Elke Schüßler opened the meeting by briefly presenting the previous work of the network and introducing relevant research questions pertaining to FCEs and other kinds of events. Network members as well as guests introduced themselves and their research interest. Focusing on FCEs, Steve and Cynthia then held their first keynote speech and introduced us in depth to their fascinating study on DDT and the Stockholm Convention and their discourse analytical method, an aspect we focused on in more depth on the second day of the workshop since our network aims to explore both conceptual and methodological issues. After a coffee break, Gordon Müller-Seitz started off the debate on FCEs vs. other kinds of events by presenting the core arguments of a paper he co-authored with Elke Schüßler on “A Process Perspective on Organized and Unexpected Field-Level Events” in a first attempt to bridge different research streams on events. This presentation was followed by a fruitful discussion, in which the notion of “unexpected events” was questioned. If events are socially constructed, they might be unexpected for some actors, but not for others. The label “unexpected events” blurs over such differences. The rest of the day was dedicated to research projects on different ways of organizing uncertainty. Simone Ostermann, a former doctoral student at FU Berlin, presented a study co-authored by Georg Schreyögg on how an ICU unit copes with event-based uncertainty through different organizing practices. The study highlighted the need of both adapability and stability and, coming from a systems theoretical perspective, argued that events can indeed be unexpected from the perspective of an organization. Then Gordon Müller-Seitz presented a study co-authored by Jörg Sydow on how the semiconductor industry consortium SEMATECH is coping with environmental uncertainty through, among others, the practice of convening, i.e. through organizing events. The first day ended with a joint dinner in Schöneberg. The second day began with a methodological discussion based on the second keynote speech by Cynthia and Steve, who gave us in-depth insights into their methodology on the DDT study. This session was particularly valuable to the doctoral and postdoctoral students who were invited to attend the workshop. After lunch, Elke Schüßler then opened up the FCE research agenda again and presented an ongoing study on the role of the Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh as a so-called “focusing event”, a concept used in the political science literature. Focusing events are said to trigger stakeholder activity towards institutional change. The presentation was followed by an intense debate on the need to unpack the focusing events concept from a social constructivist perspective. Subsequently Marie Brüning, a doctoral student at Jacobs University Bremen, presented her doctoral project on supply network disruptions and possibilities for collaborative recovery. After a coffee break, Guido Möllering kicked off a debate on the methodological challenges of researching unexpected events by using the crash of the Germanwings 4U9525 flight as an example. A main challenge in researching thus events in real time is the question of how to get resources to support the research, for which the National Science Foundation in the US has a grant format called “Rapid Response Research”. Intense discussions then revolved around the need for such rapid response research in the social sciences, and ethical issues stemming from such research shortly after an accident or other kind of disaster. Before a longer break, Elke Schüßler briefly presented the Special Issue on “Field-Configuring Events as Arenas for Innovation and Learning” just out at Industry & Innovation. Several network members contributed to this Special Issue. The workshop ended with a final keynote by Cynthia and Steve in the open “Forschungswerkstatt” seminar. They presented their ongoing work on “Ecologies of Risk: Synergies, Antagonisms and the Organizing of Risk”, showing how risk is discursively constructed as ever-present, which is then counteracted by increasingly intense organizational attempts to control such risks.  (by Elke Schüßler)

Ort: Freie Universität Berlin

20.04.2015 - 21.04.2015

4th Workshop - FCEs and Space

Ort: Jacobs University Bremen

26.10.2014 - 28.10.2014

3rd Workshop - FCEs and Relations

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)

Ort: Freie Universität Berlin

19.05.2014 - 21.05.2014
24.10.2013 - 25.09.2013

1st Workshop - Introduction

The first meeting of our Scientific Network mainly served the purpose of getting to know each other and developing a cross-disciplinary understanding of the concept of field-configuring events (FCEs) as a basis for the work of the network. With two international guests from different disciplines, business studies scholar Prof. N. Anand from IMD Lausanne and Prof. Dominic Power, an economic geographer from Uppsala University, we started our collaboration with a joint dinner in the “Mädchenitaliener” in Berlin Mitte on Sunday evening. Our workshop day started with a detailed introduction by Elke Schüßler regarding the aims and purpose of the Scientific Network. Network members then had time for introducing their research interests regarding FCEs. Subsequently, we jointly discussed the research agenda on FCEs outlined in Lampel and Meyer’s (2008) seminal article and defined a core set of issues that this network would like to work on at future meetings. For instance, we discussed whether Lampel and Meyer’s definition of FCEs is too actor-centric and concluded that the concept of “field configuration” is relatively fuzzy, requiring more precise ways of measuring fields and field structuration dynamics. After a coffee break, our first keynote speaker, Anand Narasimhan, presented his research on events, rituals, and organizational field formation and thereby introduced us to an organization sociology perspective on FCEs. Anand has published important articles on field structuration dynamics and his talk was informative and stimulating both in conceptual and methodological terms. Afterwards we had a session dedicated to different types of events, since it is one of the aims of our network to explore which kinds of events could be considered as field configuring from the perspective of different disciplines. Joachim Thiel presented his research project on the London Olympics, a "big event" much in line with the FCE framework, whereas Bastian Lange introduced small-scale parties and happenings as micro-events in urban scenes with a nonetheless field-configuring potential. After lunch, Dominic Power, our second keynote speaker, introduced us to the economic geographers’ take on FCEs and presented his work on trade fairs as temporary and cyclical clusters. His talk gave important impulses to us regarding the spatial dimension of FCEs, again one of the aspects that our network aims to bring forward in more detail.  The next session focused on different disciplinary perspectives on events, specifically an institutional theory lens (Guido Möllering) and an innovation research perspective (Katharina Hölzle). Katharina, for instance, outlined an interest in understanding how companies can benefit from events such as innovation barcamps. Guido argued that we need to better understand the temporal and social dynamics around events and think about other, i.e. non-institutional ways in which fields can be configured. We ended our workshop with a final discussion on different outcomes of FCEs and brainstormed about the form and contents of our next meetings. We discussed, for instance, the option of inviting “devils’ advocates” as keynote speakers, and not just scholars working on FCEs. Our long day ended with a second joint dinner.   (by Elke Schüßler)

Ort: Freie Universität Berlin

28.04.2013 - 29.04.2013
DFG-Netzwerk "Field-Configuring Events"