When Sociomateriality meets institutional logics: A study of campus tours as legitimacy building practices
de Vaujany, François-Xavier; Varlander, Sara; Vaast, Emmanuelle (2014-06), When Sociomateriality meets institutional logics: A study of campus tours as legitimacy building practices, 4th Organizations, Artifacts and Practices (OAP) Workshop, 2014-06, Rome, Italie
TypeCommunication / Conférence
Conference title4th Organizations, Artifacts and Practices (OAP) Workshop
MetadataShow full item record
Author(s)de Vaujany, François-Xavier
Dauphine Recherches en Management [DRM]
Abstract (EN)Scholars of management and organization studies have become increasingly interested in space and spatial dynamics. The organization of space, the distribution of artifacts, and, more generally the very materiality of work, have become recognized as key dimensions of organizational life (Clegg and Kornberger, 2006; Dale and Burrell, 2008; Yanow and Marrewjik, 2010). Organizational spaces are not merely the context in which practices unfold, but they also shape and are shaped by these practices (Yanow and Marrewjik, 2010). Scholarship on science, technology and society (STS) has long theorized the importance of the mutual constitution of materiality and human agency to understand organizational dynamics, and has viewed materiality and space, in particular, as deeply entangled in every aspect of human life (Latour, 2005; Pickering, 1995; Knorr-Cetina, 1997). This idea of the entanglement between the material world and the organizational one has become recognized as important in organizational scholarship. This growing interest in sociomateriality (Orlikowski, 2007; Leonardi and Barley, 2008; Leonardi, 2011) has not yet fully been reflected in the institutional literature. The flourishing literature on institutional logics draws upon a terminology that acknowledges ‘the materiality’ of logics (see Jones et al., 2013; Thornton et al. 2012), but it has conceptualized materiality in discursive and structural terms at the expense of its tangible and physical aspects. The connections between sociomateriality and institutional logics have thus not been much examined theoretically or empirically, except for a few, very recent, studies that have recognized the role of artifacts and space in institutional processes (see de Vaujany and Vaast, 2013). This gap in the literature has recently been noted. Friedland (2012) for instance laments that scholars of logics have come to emphasize language and the ideational while artifacts have remained “inert and invisible” (Friedland, 2012, p. 590). Along similar lines, Jones et al (2013) argue that the material dimension of logics “has been surprisingly overlooked” (p. 52) and that objects “have been peripheral to the arguments of those [institutional] articles that focus instead on structures and practices.” (p 53). At the same time, sociomaterial research has not yet much ventured in the realm of institutions, focusing instead on how the material and the social mutually constitute each other and shape organizational practices. Examining how organizational space gets endowed with institutional meaning and how institutional logics may be or become ensconced in space and artifacts can broaden the scope of sociomaterial research (de Vaujany and Mitev, 2013). It can connect the entanglement of the social and the material not only to practices, but also to more symbolic, yet significant, dimensions of organizational dynamics, such as, in particular, efforts to legitimate the organization to its stakeholders. This paper therefore argues for a cross-fertilization of sociomaterial and institutional research and does so by examining how the material space(s) that an organization occupies is invoked in organizational legitimization exercises. More specifically, this research investigates the relationships between organizational space and legitimacy in a context where they are most vividly at stake: university campus tours, i.e. the guided discovery of a specific space, aiming at giving an audience an overview of its past, present and future and at establishing the legitimacy of the organization being visited. The importance of tours of physical spaces to ‘impress’ visitors has long been established (Kuh, 1990; Braxton and Clendon, 2001; Atkinson & Hammersley, 1994). For long, showing a place, emphasizing its history, its beauty, its technical or aesthetic performance, has been a way to legitimate an organization and its leaders. Recently, it has taken on a special criticality for many organizations, though, given the multiplicity of stakeholders they face and the diversity of institutional logics that may govern them. In this paper, we argue that during campus tours organizational members attempt to align their presentation of the campus and its physical setting with what they expect can legitimize their organization in the eyes of external stakeholders. To collect rich and contextual data we used a participant-observation method of several tours. We also relied on secondary data (universities’ websites, maps, leaflets, etc). Our sample was based on multiple observations, e.g. at McGill University, La Sorbonne University, Stanford University and Berkeley University. Through our participant-observation of campus tours, the identification of the spaces and artifacts encountered, and the analysis of the story telling produced by our guide, our aim was to understand simultaneously the narrative of the tour and its material inscription. The cross-fertilization between the literature on institutional logics and that on sociomateriality applied to a case of campus tours allowed us to contribute to the literature in three important ways. First, we allude to the role that materiality plays for actors to demonstrate adherence to particular logics. Our research sheds light on how narratives aimed at producing organizational legitimacy and artifacts are interwoven. The narratives made the institutional logics on which the organization drew (e.g. logic of history, logic of social responsibility, logic of functionality, logic of innovation, logic of the market) visible both through the use of language and by invoking a variety of artifacts and spaces to emphasize and visualize these logics to the audience in attempts to make the organization appear trustworthy, aligned with stakeholders’ interests and ultimately legitimate. Second, in response to recent calls for a deepened inclusion of materiality in the institutional literature (Friedland, 2012; Jones et al 2013), we show how organizations develop sociomaterial practices to manage potential tensions between institutional logics. For example, in the case of Stanford university, showing the church and framing it as a non-religious place and instead emphasizing its ethical messages clearly illustrated the tensions between a religious logic which the university rejected, and the desire to frame themselves along the logic of social responsibility. Third, we show the importance of employing adequate methodological devices and procedures that enable researchers to visualize institutions and theorize around their materiality. In this particular paper, observing campus tours and being attentive to the artifacts and spaces involved, and document in written as well as photographic forms gave visibility to the institutional logics at stake for the organization in question.
Subjects / KeywordsCampus; Comportement organisationnel; Milieu de travail; Analyse institutionnelle; Espace (architecture); Spatial dynamics; Organizational dynamics; Institutional logics; Sociomateriality; Materiality; Space; Legitimation
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Introduction: Time and Materiality: What Is at Stake in the Materialization of Time and Time as a Materialization? de Vaujany, François-Xavier; Laniray, Pierre; Mitev, Nathalie; Vaast, Emmanuelle (2014) Chapitre d'ouvrage