The new organizational landscape created by modern communication networks such as the internet has created a new architecture of organization – the C-Form (Seidel and Stewart 2001). The C-Form is characterized by a lack of formal boundaries, a community of volunteer labor, and inexpensive and efficient communication. Some modern day examples of the C-Form produce the software tools that run a good portion of the internet including Apache (the most frequently used web server software), Sendmail (handles 75% of all e-mail on the internet), and FreeBSD (an alternative operating system). Perhaps the best known C-Form organization is the Linux community – sometimes dubbed the “Microsoft killer.” The Linux operating system has recently been gaining media attention as the best free alternative to Microsoft Windows. The Linux C-Form focuses on creating the best technology – as an artform – knitted together by a social contract (McMillan 2000). The unclear formal boundaries of the C-Form lead to two major challenges: (1) explicitly defining who is in and who is outside of the organization, and (2) establishing a clear identity for the organization (i.e., the central, distinctive, and enduring attributes, Albert and Whetten, 1985). Resolving the first challenge of membership status is a critical step to organizational identification. Organizational identification has been described as the process by which the individual perceives “oneness” with an entity (Ashforth and Mael, 1989; Cheney, 1983; Dutton, Dukerich and Harquail, 1994; Pratt, 1998; Tajfel, 1983). This process depends upon a clear definition of the entity, that is, the individual needs to understand the identity of the organization. These two issues are linked such that the identity of the organization emerges as critical players coalesce around the central, distinctive, and enduring attributes used to define the organization. Since the definition of who these “critical players” are cannot be resolved by formal boundaries in a C-Form organization, those individuals who provide guidance as to what the organization stands for, and what it does not stand for, may ultimately influence the identity of the organization, which in turn influences who does and who does not identify with the organization.In this paper we argue that understanding how identification issues are ultimately resolved is not enough. Specifically, in this unique setting one must consider the dual processes of disidentification (Elsbach, 1999) and identification simultaneously. Elsbach and Bhattacharya (1998) argue that, “Organizational disidentification is indicated by the degree to which a person defines him or herself as not having the same attributes that he or she believes define the organization...” Since a C-Form organization generally starts with a “higher purpose” of overcoming an existing situation that requires change, the start of membership identification may be disidentification with lacking existing organizations or products. Once the C-Form takes hold and starts to establish its own values, beliefs, and norms, membership identification may then transition to identification with the C-Form as opposed to the previous disidentification. This paper presents a theoretical framework of how the processes of both disidentification and identification help resolve membership boundary issues. Using the transcripts of a particular division of the Linux C-Form called the Simple End User Linux (SEUL) project we perform a rhetorical analysis of electronic communication among project members occurring over a three-year period. In the presentation of this process we will show how issues of boundary and identification are resolved in this new emerging organizational architecture drawing on network analytic techniques.

Seidel, M. D., J. M., Dukerich e Fabiola, Bertolotti. "Weathering Identity Crises: Building Identity in C-form Organizations" Working paper, Dipartimento di Scienze e Metodi dell'Ingegneria - Università di Modena e Reggio Emilia, 2008.

Weathering Identity Crises: Building Identity in C-form Organizations

BERTOLOTTI, Fabiola
2008

Abstract

The new organizational landscape created by modern communication networks such as the internet has created a new architecture of organization – the C-Form (Seidel and Stewart 2001). The C-Form is characterized by a lack of formal boundaries, a community of volunteer labor, and inexpensive and efficient communication. Some modern day examples of the C-Form produce the software tools that run a good portion of the internet including Apache (the most frequently used web server software), Sendmail (handles 75% of all e-mail on the internet), and FreeBSD (an alternative operating system). Perhaps the best known C-Form organization is the Linux community – sometimes dubbed the “Microsoft killer.” The Linux operating system has recently been gaining media attention as the best free alternative to Microsoft Windows. The Linux C-Form focuses on creating the best technology – as an artform – knitted together by a social contract (McMillan 2000). The unclear formal boundaries of the C-Form lead to two major challenges: (1) explicitly defining who is in and who is outside of the organization, and (2) establishing a clear identity for the organization (i.e., the central, distinctive, and enduring attributes, Albert and Whetten, 1985). Resolving the first challenge of membership status is a critical step to organizational identification. Organizational identification has been described as the process by which the individual perceives “oneness” with an entity (Ashforth and Mael, 1989; Cheney, 1983; Dutton, Dukerich and Harquail, 1994; Pratt, 1998; Tajfel, 1983). This process depends upon a clear definition of the entity, that is, the individual needs to understand the identity of the organization. These two issues are linked such that the identity of the organization emerges as critical players coalesce around the central, distinctive, and enduring attributes used to define the organization. Since the definition of who these “critical players” are cannot be resolved by formal boundaries in a C-Form organization, those individuals who provide guidance as to what the organization stands for, and what it does not stand for, may ultimately influence the identity of the organization, which in turn influences who does and who does not identify with the organization.In this paper we argue that understanding how identification issues are ultimately resolved is not enough. Specifically, in this unique setting one must consider the dual processes of disidentification (Elsbach, 1999) and identification simultaneously. Elsbach and Bhattacharya (1998) argue that, “Organizational disidentification is indicated by the degree to which a person defines him or herself as not having the same attributes that he or she believes define the organization...” Since a C-Form organization generally starts with a “higher purpose” of overcoming an existing situation that requires change, the start of membership identification may be disidentification with lacking existing organizations or products. Once the C-Form takes hold and starts to establish its own values, beliefs, and norms, membership identification may then transition to identification with the C-Form as opposed to the previous disidentification. This paper presents a theoretical framework of how the processes of both disidentification and identification help resolve membership boundary issues. Using the transcripts of a particular division of the Linux C-Form called the Simple End User Linux (SEUL) project we perform a rhetorical analysis of electronic communication among project members occurring over a three-year period. In the presentation of this process we will show how issues of boundary and identification are resolved in this new emerging organizational architecture drawing on network analytic techniques.
Novembre
Seidel, M. D.; Dukerich, J. M.; Bertolotti, Fabiola
Seidel, M. D., J. M., Dukerich e Fabiola, Bertolotti. "Weathering Identity Crises: Building Identity in C-form Organizations" Working paper, Dipartimento di Scienze e Metodi dell'Ingegneria - Università di Modena e Reggio Emilia, 2008.
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