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«Collective Market-Making Efforts at an Engineering Conference Guido Möllering Guido Möllering Collective Market-Making Efforts at an Engineering ...»

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MPIfG Discussion Paper 10 / 2

Collective Market-Making Efforts at an Engineering Conference

Guido Möllering

Guido Möllering

Collective Market-Making Efforts at an Engineering Conference

MPIfG Discussion Paper 10 /2

Max-Planck-Institut für Gesellschaftsforschung, Köln

Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies, Cologne

February 2010

MPIfG Discussion Paper

ISSN 0944-2073 (Print)

ISSN 1864-4325 (Internet)

© 2010 by the author(s)

Guido Möllering is a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies.

moellering@mpifg.de MPIfG Discussion Papers are refereed scholarly papers of the kind that are publishable in a peer-reviewed disciplinary journal. Their objective is to contribute to the cumulative improvement of theoretical knowledge. The papers can be ordered from the institute for a small fee (hard copies) or downloaded free of charge (PDF).

Downloads www.mpifg.de Go to Publications / Discussion Papers Max-Planck-Institut für Gesellschaftsforschung Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies Paulstr. 3 | 50676 Cologne | Germany Tel. +49 221 2767-0 Fax +49 221 2767-555 www.mpifg.de info@mpifg.de Abstract This paper advances research on institutional work in market constitution processes. I show how purposive, coordinated action is organized under conditions of uncertainty through practices of rendering irreducible uncertainty tolerable. Building on recent developments in institutional theories of organization, market sociology, and the concept of field-configuring events, I analyze collective market-making efforts at a conference on the next generation of lithography technology for manufacturing semiconductors. I use original documents and 76 field interviews in a qualitative analysis to identify and understand the main practices of collective institutional work at the conference, along with the immediate consequences of these practices. My findings show that the overall purpose of the conference was to generate momentum toward commercialization, in spite of remaining uncertainty, through practices of bootstrapping, roadmapping, leader-picking, and issue-bracketing. These are practices of ignoring, denying, displacing, and suspending uncertainty, respectively. I contribute important clarifications of the meaning of purposive action and agency in institutional work and I advance actiontheoretical explanations of market constitution processes by identifying activities involved in shaping a market that is still in the making.

Zusammenfassung Diese Studie trägt zur Erforschung von Institutional Work in Marktkonstitutionsprozessen bei. Ich zeige, wie gezieltes, koordiniertes Handeln unter Ungewissheit durch Praktiken organisiert wird, die die Ungewissheit tolerierbar machen. Ausgehend von den jüngsten Erkenntnissen der institutionalistischen Organisationstheorien, der Marktsoziologie und dem Begriff des Field-Configuring Events analysiere ich kollektive Bemühungen der Markterschaffung bei einer Konferenz über die nächste Generation von Lithographietechnologie für die Halbleiterproduktion (Next Generation Lithography).

Anhand von Originaldokumenten aus dem Feld sowie 76 Interviews führe ich eine qualitative Analyse durch, mit der die wichtigsten Praktiken des kollektiven Institutional Work bei der Konferenz und deren unmittelbare Folgen identifiziert und verstanden werden können. Meine Ergebnisse zeigen, dass es in der Konferenz vor allem darum ging, einen gewissen Schwung, das heißt: eine zielgerichtete Kraft zu erzeugen, die die Kommerzialisierung einer neuen Technologie anstoßen soll – und zwar trotz der verbleibenden Ungewissheit. Dies wurde durch Praktiken des Ignorierens, Leugnens, Verschiebens und Aufhebens von Ungewissheit erreicht, die ich mit den englischen Begriffen bootstrapping, roadmapping, leader-picking und issue-bracketing genauer bezeichne.

Die Studie trägt zur weiteren Klärung der Bedeutung von gezieltem Handeln und der Rolle von Akteuren in Institutionalisierungsprozessen bei. Ich bringe handlungstheoretische Begründungen von Marktkonstitutionsprozessen voran, indem ich Praktiken beschreibe, die einen Markt beeinflussen, der sich noch im Entstehungsprozess befindet.

4 MPIfG Discussion Paper 10 / 2 Contents

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1 Introduction The role of organized actors in the constitution of new fields, especially in the creation of new markets through radical innovation, is widely recognized (e.g. Garud/ Karnøe 2001; DiMaggio 1988; Fligstein 1997). Yet the practices by which actors are able to coordinate collective action toward the development of a new market in the face of uncertainty are poorly theorized, and even less well known empirically (Wijen/Ansari 2007; Akrich/Callon/Latour 2002). This paper focuses on practices that can be observed at market-configuring events. How do such events work to organize collectives of actors to move in the same direction toward constituting a new market, when there is still uncertainty about the final destination?

The common view is that actors can be motivated to move in the same direction by reducing the uncertainty about the feasibility and desirability of the projected market (e.g. Beckert 1996; Fligstein 2001a; Podolny/Hsu 2003). My study of a pre-competitive event, however, reveals important practices that serve to ignore, deny, displace, and suspend uncertainty just as much as they may increase certainty for the actors. I refer to these practices as bootstrapping, roadmapping, leader-picking, and issue-bracketing.





They support collective sense-making, and add to market-making efforts (Garud 2008) as a result. Such mechanisms render uncertainty tolerable, which I argue is vital for coordinated action toward the constitution of new markets in the face of uncertainty.

My study heeds Davis and Marquis’s (2005) call for problem-driven, field-level, and mechanism-based research in organization theory. The problem I address is one of the major concerns in the semiconductor industry about constituting markets for “next generation lithography,” which is anticipated to have great consequences for modern economies and societies. This new market is an emerging field, and I aim to understand it better by studying the practices that occur at high-profile, field-specific events. These practices reveal mechanisms of dealing with uncertainty that can be theorized beyond the field in question.

The study is grounded in institutional theories of organizations and organizational fields, especially research on “institutional work” (DiMaggio 1988: 13–15; Lawrence/ Suddaby 2006) and developments in the sociology of markets, particularly field-based approaches dealing with constitution processes for new markets (Fligstein 2001a). My findings about alternate ways of dealing with uncertainty and generating momentum advance these two related streams. In terms of research design, I build on Zilber’s (2007) I am grateful for very helpful feedback on prior versions of this paper from: Jens Beckert, Kurtuluş Gemici, Peter Karnøe, Thorsten Kogge, Mark Lutter, Uli Meyer, Gordon Müller-Seitz, Cornelius Schubert, Elke Schüßler, Roy Suddaby, Jörg Sydow, Marc Ventresca, Frank Wijen, Arnold Windeler and members of the Research Group on Markets at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies. I am particularly indebted to my colleagues in Berlin for sharing interview data from a joint research project on “Path-Creating Networks” funded by the Volkswagen Foundation (Grant No. AZ II/80 308). I also thank Casey Butterfield and Cynthia Lehmann for their language editing.

6 MPIfG Discussion Paper 10 / 2 and Garud’s (2008) studies of conferences as key events for institutional entrepreneurship, collective sense-making, and field configuration (Lampel/Meyer 2008). I analyze how different practices at conferences are related to the problem of uncertainty. The event I focus on here is the Fifth Sematech Workshop on Next Generation Lithography (Fifth NGL Workshop) in Pasadena, California, on August 28–30, 2001. The conference theme was “Working toward Commercialization,” which points explicitly to institutional work on market-making, at least as an objective of the conference.

My contribution to organizational institutionalism and market sociology is threefold:

first, I show that the concept of agency needs to be extended to include practices in the face of uncertainty that are projective without a clear vision of the desired outcome, which revises current notions of purposive action in institutional work and entrepreneurial vision in innovation-based market creation. Second, I demonstrate by focusing on empirical practices that markets can be studied before they are established, either when actors articulate their projections and ideas at events, or when actors form a collective around the “issue” of creating new markets and technologies (Hoffman 1999).

Third, I apply the currently vague notion of “field-configuring event” to the constitution of markets. Because I am studying a market-configuring event, I can therefore be much more specific about the elements of the field being configured. This greater specificity helps to assess the actual impact of events on a market field.

In the following sections, I first develop the theoretical bases and context for the institutional work, market constitution, and field-configuring events that underpin my study.

In the data and methods section, I introduce the larger empirical context in which the Fifth NGL Workshop occurred and specify the data and analytical tools used to extract my findings. The next section presents the market-making efforts at the conference and identifies the practices of institutional work they represent. In the last section, I discuss the theoretical contributions and research implications of my study.

2 Institutional work and market-configuring events

As early as 1988, DiMaggio (1988: 13–15) uses the term “institutional work” to describe actors’ efforts to reproduce institutions or create new ones. More recently, research under the label of “institutional work” (Lawrence/Suddaby 2006; Lawrence/Suddaby/ Leca 2009) has reinvigorated the search for a better understanding of the role actors play in processes of institutionalization: this research embraces the paradox of embedded agency rather than resolving it (Battilana/D’Aunno 2009; Garud/Hardy/Maguire 2007; Holm 1995). Lawrence and Suddaby (2006: 215) define institutional work as “the purposive action of individuals and organizations aimed at creating, maintaining and disrupting institutions.” Accordingly, actors can take many different roles in relation to new and existing institutions. They can work for or against them, play a leading or supMöllering: Collective Market-Making Efforts at an Engineering Conference portive part, and influence the actions of others and the overall development of a field (Fligstein 2001b).

The proponents of institutional work build on the sociology of practice (e.g. Giddens 1984;

Schatzki/Knorr-Cetina/Savigny 2001) and encourage researchers to study institutionalization and deinstitutionalization processes from the inside (see Holm 1995). From the institutional work perspective, agency is a constant but open-ended possibility; analyses focus on social practices that are aimed at influencing institutions and, at the same time, are still reliant on institutional resources (Lawrence/Suddaby 2006). The main question is how much creativity and intelligence goes into these practices, and the degree of success that agency achieves in a given institutional context (Lawrence/Suddaby/Leca 2009).

While this emphasis on practice, work, and “effort” is unique to the study of institutional work (Lawrence/Suddaby/Leca 2009: 14–17), its function is mainly integrative, bringing together among scholars of institutional theory such concepts as the new interest in discourse analysis (Phillips/Lawrence/Hardy 2004; Zilber 2007) and the parallel revival of “institutional entrepreneurship” (e.g. Battilana/Leca/Boxenbaum 2009; Beckert 1999;

Garud/Hardy/Maguire 2007; Hardy/Maguire 2008; Lawrence/Phillips 2004). DiMaggio’s (1988) justified concern that new institutional theories of organization might lose sight of interest and agency leads him to point out that “[n]ew institutions arise when organized actors with sufficient resources (institutional entrepreneurs) see in them an opportunity to realize interests that they value highly” (p. 14). This is a reminder of what Eisenstadt (1964: 384) describes as “innovating elites,” comprised of “special ‘entrepreneurs’” who give a charismatic “push” (in the Weberian sense) to the crystallization and continuation of new institutional structures (see also Eisenstadt 1980). It is interesting that the foundational texts of the new institutionalism in organization studies do not deny the possibility of what came to be called institutional entrepreneurship;

Meyer and Rowan (1977: 348) point out, for example, that “powerful organizations attempt to build their goals and procedures directly into society as institutional rules.” However, the foundational texts also imply that an active role is only seen as an option for a minority of powerful and visionary actors.

More recent work on institutional entrepreneurship presents a different picture. Although even DiMaggio (1988: 15) talks about “organized actors” and remarks that they need “the help of subsidiary actors,” new research shows more and more clearly that institutional entrepreneurship requires the mobilization of distributed agency. It must also be understood as a collective endeavor (Garud/Karnøe 2003; Greenwood/Suddaby/Hinings 2002; Lawrence/Phillips/Hardy 2002; Lounsbury/Crumley 2007; Maguire/ Hardy/Lawrence 2004; Wijen/Ansari 2007), even when a core actor can be clearly identified (e.g. Munir/Phillips 2005) or the process is triggered by an elite (e.g. Greenwood/ Suddaby 2006). Although institutional entrepreneurship has been described as rather “heroic,” “charismatic,” and “powerful” in early works, less positive adjectives such as “messy, manipulative, instrumental, conscious, and devious” (Garud/Jain/Kumaraswamy 2002: 210) may also apply, according to more recent studies.



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