New Article in RSO: Striving for societal impact as an early-career researcher

Heroic, non-heroic and post-heroic perspective on societal impact (Source: Friesike et al., 2021)

When we think about societal impact of researchers, we mostly have prominent senior scholars in mind. In an article forthcoming in Research in the Sociology of Organizations (RSO), Sascha Friesike, Maximilian Heimstaedt and I have taken a different focus and reflected on “Striving for societal impact as an early-career researcher”. Before we arrive at our post-heroic perspective on impact (see Figure above), we discuss 5 common concerns early-career researchers commonly struggle with when considering impact work.

Concern #1: Do I even have time for this? Isn’t it “publish or perish”?

We argue that it is not all about trade-offs. Impact work may substantially contribute to publishing efforts, e.g., by opening up access to the field or by helping to recognize new phenomena.

Concern #2: Should I focus on impact activities that count / are counted?

What is true for the Journal Impact Factor, is true for Altmetrics, as well: “when a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure” (Strathern rephrasing Goodhart’s law). In our paper, we discuss three primary reasons why Altmetrics should not guide impact work:

  • Altmetrics measure attention, not impact
  • Not all impact work is (meant to be) visible if it should best serve the cause
  • Spillover effects (e.g., to teaching) are hardly captured by Altmetrics

Concern #3: Are my findings too incremental when compared to iconic concepts?

When engaging in impact work, you do – and should – not only draw on your “own” incremental contributions. Making those contributions requires to have an overview of an entire field. Draw from the fullest!

Concern #4: My findings are not actionable – so how are they useful?

Impact is much more than coming up with “plug ‘n’ play” management tools (actually, applying those is often the worst kind of impact work). In our paper, we refer to Nicolai & Seidl’s (2010) distinction between three different ways that academic research can be useful for practitioners:

  • Instrumental relevance: e.g., help in decision-making
  • Conceptual relevance: e.g., new metaphors or uncovering contingencies
  • Legitimative relevance: e.g., when founding new ventures

Concern #5: What if I say something wrong (and get a bad reputation)?

Sadly, depending on the researcher’s subjective position, this is the most serious of the five concerns in this list. Not because of reputation but because of harassment issues (see, e.g., Ferber 2018)

How to address harassment concerns? Try to choose a stage, where you feel comfortable, depending on your own preferences. And sometimes, one’s own impact work may consist of giving advice on who else to ask.

With respect to reputation issues, we recommend following the example set by Joan Jett:

For details on the concerns mentioned in this thread and ideas on how to deal with them, check out the pre-print of the article at SocArxiv.

This post is based upon a Twitter thread.

New Article: “Dis/organising visibilities: Governmentalisation and counter-transparency”

I have published an article in the journal Organization entitled “Dis/organising visibilities: Governmentalisation and counter-transparency”. The article uses the case of Edward Snowden for developing a critical concept of organizational transparency. Here is abstract and link to the article:

This paper situates organisational transparency in an agonistic space that is shaped by the interplay of ‘mechanisms of power that adhere to a truth’ and critical practices that come from below in a movement of ‘not being governed like that and at that cost’ (Foucault, 2003: 265). This positioning involves an understanding of transparency as a practice that is historically contingent and multiple, and thus negotiable and contested. By illustrating the entanglement of ‘power through transparency’ and ‘counter-transparency’ with reference to the example of Edward Snowden’s whistleblowing, the paper contributes to the critique of transparency and to debates on the use of Foucauldian concepts in post-panoptic contexts of organising. By introducing the notion of ‘counter-transparency’, the paper expands the conceptual vocabulary for understanding the politics and ethics of managing and organising visibility.

Please check out the open access article here.

New Article in Organization Theory: Transparency and Accountability: Causal, Critical and Constructive Perspectives

Earlier this year, the journal Organization Theory launched as the sister journal to Organization Studies, similar to the distinction between AMJ (empirical) and AMR (theoretical) at the Academy of Management. Part of Organization Theory is a “Conversations and Controversies section”, where Maximilian Heimstädt and I managed to publish an article entitled “Transparency and Accountability: Causal, Critical and Constructive Perspectives”. The abstract of reads as follows:

Given the excessive power of Google and other large technology firms, transparency and accountability have turned into matters of great concern for organization scholars. So far, most studies adopt either a causal or critical perspective on the relationship between the two concepts. These perspectives are pitted against each other but share some basic assumptions – a fact which limits organization theory’s ability to fully grasp the management of (digital) visibilities. To address these limitations, we therefore propose a third, constructive perspective on these concepts. A constructive perspective turns transparency and accountability from analytic resources into topics of inquiry, allowing organization scholars to study how people in and around organizations put them to work and with what consequences. We introduce sites of ethical contestation as a new methodological strategy to conduct surprising and unintuitive empirical research from a constructive perspective.

The other article of the controversy has been authored by Richard Whittington and Basak Yakis-Douglas, who wrote about “The Grand Challenge of Corporate Control: Opening strategy to the normative pressures of networked professionals”. Both articles are available open access.

New Article in Industry & Innovation: “The Open Innovation in Science research field”

The article “The Open Innovation in Science research field: a collaborative conceptualisation approach”, published in Industry & Innovation, is the result of a collaborative authoring process. A group of 47 contributors (including myself) tried to bring together the concepts of Open Science and Open Innovation:

Openness and collaboration in scientific research are attracting increasing attention from scholars and practitioners alike. However, a common understanding of these phenomena is hindered by disciplinary boundaries and disconnected research streams. We link dispersed knowledge on Open Innovation, Open Science, and related concepts such as Responsible Research and Innovation by proposing a unifying Open Innovation in Science (OIS) Research Framework. This framework captures the antecedents, contingencies, and consequences of open and collaborative practices along the entire process of generating and disseminating scientific insights and translating them into innovation. Moreover, it elucidates individual-, team-, organisation-, field-, and society‐level factors shaping OIS practices. To conceptualise the framework, we employed a collaborative approach involving 47 scholars from multiple disciplines, highlighting both tensions and commonalities between existing approaches. The OIS Research Framework thus serves as a basis for future research, informs policy discussions, and provides guidance to scientists and practitioners.

In line with its topic, the article is available open access.

New Article in MIT Sloan Management Review: “This Is Not (Digital) Businss as Usual”

Ali Aslan Gümüsay, Head of the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Research Group at the Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG) and Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Hamburg, is among the contributors to the collaborative open course “Organizing in Times of Crisis”. Together, we have published a brief reflection piece on organizational coping-strategies with the Corona crisis from reactive to proactive:

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New Article: “Resourcing under tensions: How frontline employees create resources to balance paradoxical tensions”

Anna Schneider, Julia Brandl (both colleagues at the Department of Organization and Learning, IOL), and IOL alumni Bernadette Bullinger have recently published a paper on “Resourcing under tensions: How frontline employees create resources to balance paradoxical tensions” in Organization Studies. The abstract reads as follows:

Managing resources and tensions at the frontline is crucial for organizational success. To advance our understanding of how frontline employees turn assets into useful resources under tensions, we draw on research on resourcing and practices of responding to paradoxical tensions. Our ethnographic study of employees in a multinational retail–fashion company finds three resourcing practices – situational reframing, organizational preframing and institutional deframing – that enable frontline employees to balance tensions. We contribute to both the resourcing perspective and to research on individuals’ responses to paradoxical tensions, first, by identifying the varying scopes of meaning (situational, organizational or institutional) that employees infuse potential resources with; second, by extending the notion of framing to understand how resourcing is accomplished interactively in tension-laden situations; and third, by explaining how employees’ construction of tensions is related to their dynamic moves between resourcing practices.

Check out the full article via the journal webpage. In case you or your institution don’t have access please write us or the authors to receive a copy.

New Article: “Algorithmic Decision-Making, Spectrogenic Profiling, and Hyper-Facticity in the Age of Post-Truth”

Algorithmic profiling is a technology and practice that is increasingly used to make decisions, sometimes even without human intervention. Profiles can be traced back to their use in police work and behaviorist psychology of the early 20th century. Thus, long before the emergence of Big Data, profiles were used as a knowledge tool in a wide range of human sciences. Today, profiles and profiling are used in multiple contexts: customer profiling, profiling for employment screening, credit scoring, criminal investigations, immigration policy, healthcare management, forensic biometrics, etc.

I have published a paper, which explores how the emerging arrangement of multiple profiling impacts decision-making, our subjectivities and relations. It shows how “profiling machines” influence and shape our lives in ways that are often invisible, but nevertheless powerful and often dramatic. Check out the paper entitled “Algorithmic Decision-Making, Spectrogenic Profiling, and Hyper-Facticity in the Age of Post-Truth”, which has been published in the open access journal Le Foucaldian.

Correspondence in ‘Nature’: “No Peer Review, No Point” [Update]

Source: Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereals Comics

The journal Nature is not the usual outlet for organization studies scholars. Nevertheless, Maximilian Heimstädt, Katja Mayer, Tony Ross-Hellauer and myself submitted a short piece to Nature’s “Correspondence” section in response to an article trying to define predatory journals. 35 Authors led by Agnes Grudniewicz had developed such a definition but suggested leaving quality of peer review out of it:

Most controversially, we omitted quality of peer review, even though negligent peer review is often a prominent feature of predatory journals. We are not saying that peer review is unimportant, only that it is currently impossible to assess.

In our response, we argue that there is no point in any definition of predatory journals that leaves peer review quality out:

If misuse of the peer-review label is not included in the definition of predatory journals, it could strengthen rather than weaken them. Formal listings of those journals might shrink under such a definition: many journals would be removed because their questionable peer-review procedures have escaped scrutiny and they seem otherwise respectable. They could then become attractive outlets to potential authors.

Continue reading “Correspondence in ‘Nature’: “No Peer Review, No Point” [Update]”

Ephemera Special Issue on “The Ethico-Politics of Whistleblowing”

Together with Bernadette Loacker (Lancester University) and Randi Heinrichs (Lüneburg) I co-edited and ephemera special Issue (PDF) on truth-telling and whistleblowing in digital cultures. The issue opens a space for discussing the specific ‘conditions of possibility’ of truth-telling and the multiple technologies, which mediate it in contemporary digital cultures.

The notion of the ethico-politics of whistleblowing is introduced to address the irreducible entanglement of questions of ethics, politics and truth in the practice of ‘speaking out’. The special issue brings together a set of papers, acknowledging that forms and mediations of truth-telling are complex and contested. The contributions discuss questions such as: Who is, in digital cultures, considered to be qualified to speak out, and about what? Under which conditions, and with what consequences can ‘the truth’ be told? How do digital infrastructures regulate the truth, and the process of making it heard? How is the figure of the whistleblower constructed, and how do whistleblowers constitute themselves as political and ethical subjects, willing to take risks and pose a challenge, to others and themselves?

Check out the full text of the Special Issue at ephemera.

New Article in Organization Studies: »From Universalizing Transparency to the Interplay of Transparency Matrices«

On 26 October 2015, BBC News published an article entitled China ‘social credit’: Beijing sets up huge system. It describes how the Chinese government is building an ‘omnipotent “social credit” system that is meant to rate each citizen’s trustworthiness’. Warnings about the advent of ‘digital dictatorship’ and phrases like ‘Big Data meets Big Brother’ have proliferated in research and Western public media ever since, and they reflect a rapidly growing focus on the contemporary global process whereby power and control become entwined with digitalization and result in new and often concerning forms of transparency.

Continue reading “New Article in Organization Studies: »From Universalizing Transparency to the Interplay of Transparency Matrices«”