Is the Sharing Economy a Field? Paper on how a disruptive field nurtures sharing economy organizations presented at the European Goup of Orgainzation Studies Colloquium 2019

In their exploratory study, the platforms2share researchers find that sharing organizations receive attention, resources and legitimation from a „disruptive field“ of organizations including tech-media and venture capitalists – a field that initiates and support technological innovation which potentially disrupt existing fields and industries. So far, the field pays attention to dominant models in the sharing economy such as Airbnb or Uber. The authors published the chapter in the renowned series „Research in the Sociology of Organizations“.

In their study, Dominika Wruk, Tino Schöllhorn and Achim Oberg explore the field of the sharing economy. Analyzing relational structures and discourses is crucial for developing a through understanding of the current state and potential development of the sharing economy. In this chapter, the authors applied two different field conceptions – organizational field and issue field – as a starting point for an explorative empirical analysis. To capture both field concepts, the authors collected relational data and data on organizations’ self-representations to see how organizations engaged in the debate on the sharing economy relate to each other. The observed network of organizations suggests that the sharing economy is an issue field. In addition, the core of this network shows the relational structure of an organizational field. Surprisingly, it is not an organizational field of the sharing economy. Instead, it is a field of organizations heavily engaged in proselytizing new organizational forms that will change other fields. What the authors observed is a new field configuration – the authors call it a disruptive field – that is, less inward-oriented than other fields but much more engaged in changing other fields’ structures and dynamics. During the dot-com years, they supported Internet start-ups; then, they made Web 2.0 platforms popular; and now, they have legitimized and strengthened sharing economy start-ups. So far, they pay more attention to dominant sharing organizations (e.g. Airbnb, Uber). With these insights, the authors contribute to institutional research on field configuration and shed light on the phenomenon of the sharing economy and its potential development.



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