Nanotechnology and nanolabeling : essays on the emergence of new technological fields

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School of Business | Doctoral thesis (article-based) | Defence date: 2007-11-23
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Instructions for the author
Organisaatiot ja johtaminen
Organization and Management
Degree programme
256 s.
Acta Universitatis oeconomicae Helsingiensis. A, 317
The aim of this doctoral research is to explore the individual and organizational level activities that lead to the emergence of new technological fields mainly from the institutional entrepreneurship perspective. These issues are addressed from four differing viewpoints in the essays that form the main body of the research output. Essay I investigates the initial shaping of the boundaries of a field through framing of meaning and mobilization of resources by institutional entrepreneurs, bringing together the institutional entrepreneurship and social movements literatures. Essay II develops the institutional entrepreneurship approach by investigating empirically how actors, drawing from their formal status and relational embeddedness, bridge cognitive, organizational and spatial gaps present in embryonic fields. Essay III addresses the role of institutional entrepreneurs as the translators of globally disseminating discourses into a suitable form to a local institutional context, and deepens the micro level understandings of the cross-scalar processes in field emergence. Essay IV draws on the literatures of organizational forms and image and identity to study the strategies of business managers to become associated with novel fields and to gain access to the resources offered by them, as well as the outcomes of such activity for the emergence of new organizational forms. The principal technological field which is the focus of the research is that of nanotechnology. Essays I and IV focus solely on the context of nanotechnology, whereas Essays II and III draw on a comparative case study of nanotechnology and functional foods, where the processes of emergence are contrasted across the two fields in different stages of emergence. Previously, a multitude of studies in the new institutional theory have investigated agency in the emergence of novel fields from different perspectives. However, this research identifies three important gaps in this literature, and contributes to creating new knowledge in these areas. Firstly, incorporating agency in the new institutional tradition also generates novel connections to other literatures, a link which remains largely unexplored. The current research complements the institutional entrepreneurship literature by drawing on social movements, relational approaches, socio-economic approaches to technology, institutionalization of discourses, and literature on identity and image. These provide important contributions to extend the understandings of agency in the institutionalist approaches. Secondly, the theory on skills, roles, activities and positions of institutional entrepreneurs as enablers and mediators of various processes of institutional emergence is still under development. The multidisciplinary approach, comparative case studies and extensive empirical data reported in the essays contribute to further strengthen the theory on institutional agency in the emergence of new fields. Drawing from this, the research develops a model of the capacity to act of an institutional entrepreneur. Finally, the entire literature on the institutionalization of discourses is still inconclusive, especially in terms of the empirical evidence on how various discursive processes contribute to field emergence. The empirical case of nanotechnology provides a unique research context, and is especially powerful in casting light on various processes through which discourses, and opportunistic agents tapping on them, sediment the emerging fields
Supervising professor
Lilja, Kari, professor