The second meeting revolved around the first of the three conceptual building blocks of the network: time. The meeting took place in Hamburg on 24th and 25th October, 2013, with an additional public talk preceding on the network meeting in the evening before. This talk was given by one of our international guests, David Obstfeld (Professor of Management at the California State University in Fullerton, USA) and was jointly organized by the workshop host, the Urban and Regional Economics Research Group of Gernot Grabher and the University of Hamburg’s Center of Global Governance. In his lecture, David Obstfeld drew on his seminal work on the “tertius iungens” in social networks as an important source of novelty.
The main workshop then took place in a very special, but appropriate spatial environment: the headquarter of IBA Hamburg, a so-called “international building exhibition”, a seven year programme through which Hamburg’s city administration intended to push the development of one of the city’s most deprived areas: the Elbe island. We were, therefore, in the middle of a field-configuring event, albeit one with a specific temporality given its seven-year duration. The introduction by Constanze Engelbrecht, Gernot Grabher and Joachim Thiel elaborated on this specificity of the place and the related event.
After Elke Schüßler’s thematic introduction and the discussion of a political science paper by Grzymala-Busse (2010) – “Time will tell” – that unravels the complex relationship between temporality and causality, we started with the first day’s highlight, the keynote by Tor Hernes (Professor of Organization at Copenhagen Business School) on ”Event-based organizing in the flow of time”. Tor’s take on events as “smallest analysable units in the flow of time” was very thoughtful and inspiring, but at the same time provocative and disturbing for the group given that the FCE debate addresses an event as a meso-level institutional setting and structure at which strategic agency unfolds. Nevertheless, particularly Tor's emphasis on events as “closures of living present” offered a clue to come to grips with possible configuring mechanisms inherent in the real-time interactions at meetings, conferences and other instances of FCEs.
After the lunch break three presentations were given. Guido Möllering (Jacobs University Bremen) introduced the concept of trust and stressed its dual nature with regard to to field configuring events. Trust is both outcome of an event and a key condition of its configuring capacity. Charles-Clemens Rüling (Grenoble École de Management), by summarizing the history of a film festival in France, showed how series of events may lose their field-configuring capacity over time but might go through renewal periods. Here, Charles-Clemens emphasized the role of conflicts as drivers of renewal.
Bodo Kubartz, a consultant and event organizer in the perfume industry and previously a researcher at the University of Oklahoma, provided the insights of a reflective practitioner on FCEs. His focus was on events as means of creating niches in which new subfields can emerge as well as on the role of the event organizer as a potential broker in the sense of David Obstfeld's "tertius iungens".
After coffee the participants went on a two-and-a-half hours tour through the IBA Hamburg which ended at the top of a refurbished World War II bunker hosting a hot water based thermal store inside (which we did not visit!) and offering a coffee bar and a spectacular viewpoint on the roof. From there the group moved on to the dinner place in the city centre of Hamburg.
The second day started with the keynote by David Obstfeld. It was again both inspiring and disturbing, in a similar way as Tor Hernes’ account the day before. David’s main point crystallized in the phrase “the beginning is always a small number game”, referring to few individual agents, which again challenged the meso-level approach of FCEs. David ended by pointing out particular tensions that influence the study of FCEs as focal points of configuration and change, among them e.g. the question whether configuration is based on intentional or emergent processes as well as the interplay of routine and non-routine factors.
After the coffee break members and guests of the networks presented new research ideas: Gernot Grabher (HCU Hamburg) and Elke Schüßler (FU Berlin) with a subproject of a DFG research group proposal on temporary co-presence and creativity; Bastian Lange (Multiplicities Berlin) with a project idea about the impact of unexpected disasters such as the Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh on the fashion market; Charles-Clemens Rüling and Elke Schüssler by looking at the importance of rituals at FCEs through the lens of emotions in institutional theory.
After lunch, two workshop days packed with impressions, ideas and interesting arguments ended with a summarizing discussion.
(by Joachim Thiel)
24.10.2013 - 25.09.2013