A common feature of most organization-as-communication approaches is a processual view on organizational formation and reproduction, emphasizing the inherently precarious character of even the most bureaucratic organizations. But what about loose social collectives, such as online communities, terrorist networks, or hacker collectives? Is the notion of ‘organization’ useful for describing such fluid social collectives at all?
In a recent article published in the Journal of Management Studies (JMS)*, Leonhard Dobusch and Dennis Schoeneborn suggest using the term ‘organizationality’ for a gradual differentiation of social collectives regarding the degree to which they achieve the status of organizational actorhood. In the authors’ view, one crucial precondition of organizationality is the accomplishment of some form of collective identity through speech acts (“identity claims”) that try to delineate – and thus attribute – what the social collective is or does.
To address the research question on how identity claims contribute to the communicative constitution of fluid social collectives as organizational actors, Dobusch and Schoeneborn mobilize a ”communicative constitution of organizations” (CCO) perspective. Empirically, the authors are investigating the case of the “hacktivist” (i.e., hacker activist) collective Anonymous. Their study contributes to organization studies by showing that fluid social collectives (such as Anonymous) are able to temporarily reinstate organizational actorhood through the performance of carefully prepared and staged identity claims.
* Full reference: Dobusch, L., & Schoeneborn, D. (2015). Fluidity, Identity, and Organizationality: The Communicative Constitution of Anonymous. Journal of Management Studies, 52(8), 1005-1035 (the article is available open access until December 4, 2015).