Uibk-logo-miniOn February 1st I joined the Department of Organization and Learning at University of Innsbruck as a professor of business administration with a focus on organization. One of the most challenging and, at the same time, tempting tasks as a newly appointed professor is the opportunity to design at least some new courses from scratch. In particular, I was so lucky to being offered to teach the module on “Current Issues in Organization Studies”, which allowed me to design a course I have been wanting to give for a long time: “Open Organizations and Organizing Openness“.

The overall rationale for the structure of the course follows the imperative formulated by Tkacz (2012: 404, PDF) in his “critique of open politics”:

To describe the political organisation of all things open requires leaving the rhetoric of open behind.

As a consequence, the lecture part of the course is organized around different aspects or dimensions of organizational openness such as boundaries, transparency, participation or emergence. The respective readings only peripherally address the issue of openness but rather shall provide the building blocks for arriving at a more precise and theoretically grounded understanding of openness. Read the rest of this entry »

The German Science Foundation is funding a new research unit based at Freie Universität Berlin with the topic “Organized Creativity: Practices for Inducing and Coping with Uncertainty“.

The research unit examines the challenging question of how creativity can be socially organized. It comprises four projects, each of which examines different dimensions of uncertainty in a specific area of organizing practices: collaborative practices, temporal practices, and regulatory practices.

Doctoral positions (and one postdoc) are open at the different partner universities of the research unit, which is comprised of the following scholars:

Prof. Dr. Jörg Sydow, Freie Universität Berlin (spokesperson)
Prof. Jana Costas, Ph.D., Europa-Universität Viadrina, Frankfurt/Oder
Prof. Dr. Leonhard Dobusch, Universität Innsbruck
Prof. Dr. Gernot Grabher, Hafen City University, Hamburg
Prof. Dr. Oliver Ibert, Freie Universität Berlin and IRS Erkner
Prof. Gregory Jackson, Ph.D., Freie Universtität Berlin
Prof. Dr. Sigrid Quack, Universität Duisburg-Essen
Prof. Dr. Elke Schüßler, Freie Universität Berlin and (from 1.5.16) Johannes Kepler Universität Linz

Please access the individual job offers here (in German only) and check out the general project website for further information.

 

The dreadful state of copyright law in the digital age can be nicely illustrated by a thought experiment.* If one thinks back to 1980, it is hard to imagine how one could have committed a copyright violation with a book, an LP or a reel of film. Lending the book to a friend, duplicating parts – or even the whole book – on a photocopier, or staging a reading were all possible without clarifying rights. While copyright was already a complex matter at that time, until the internet it played little role in most people’s everyday lives.

Cover of the reader on "The Digital Society" by the Friedrich-Ebert-Foundation

Cover of the reader on “The Digital Society” by the Friedrich-Ebert-Foundation

Today everything is different. Anyone who uses a smartphone to video everyday experiences and share them with friends in a personal blog will hardly be able to avoid violating copyright. A couple of seconds of music or a poster in the background will suffice if “making publicly available” in the internet violates copyright. Many of the most creative digital artforms, such as remix and mashup, are almost impossible to disseminate by legal means, still less to commercialise. The use of even the briefest music or video sequence must be legally clarified, and in most cases this is much too complicated and expensive. Libraries, museums and archives battle with similar problems, preventing them from digitising their holdings.

Introducing a Right to Remix?

Apart from shorter copyright periods, there would be two other sensible approaches to solving this problem. Firstly, a European harmonisation and expansion of the catalogue of copyright limitations and exceptions would be sensible. The introduction of a de minimis or remix exemption modelled on the fair use clause in US copyright, combined with the forms of flat-fee reimbursement established in Europe, would enable new forms of recreational and remix creativity. Even for commercial publication of remixes and mashups all that would be required is to notify the relevant copyright collecting society (as is already the case for cover versions), in place of the complicated and expensive process of clarifying rights. Secondly, the establishment of a European register of works would simplify clarification of rights and restrict ongoing copyright protection (after an initial period) to cases where works are in fact still in commercial circulation.

Read the rest of this entry »

Blogging about organizational strategy and even using blogs as a strategy-making device is an increasingly common practice among (not only) young firms. For instance, in a paper* co-authored with Thomas Gegenhuber, we analyze strategy blogging as an open strategy practice that increases transparency of and involvement in strategy making, while at the same time adding to the corporate impression management repertoire.

Consequentially, it comes at no surprise that non-profit organizations such as Creative Commons, which heavily rely on external communities such as different groups of license users, also engage in strategy blogging. Ryan Merkley, CEO of Creative Commons, started the series of strategy posts with general reflections on sharing, followed by suggestions for the overall mission and role of Creative Commons in his second post:

CC must recognize its various roles in a variety of diverse and active communities. We provide essential infrastructure for the Web, and are vital contributors and leaders in these global movements. The opportunity to realize the benefits of openness will come from showing how “open” is uniquely able to solve the challenges of our time. Our role is not just as providers of tools, but also as strategic partners, advocates, influencers, and supporters to quantify, evangelize, and demonstrate the benefits of open.

Only after announcing that Creative Commons had received a $10 million grant from the The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation to implement the new strategy, Merkley identified “three specific areas” that Creative Commons will focus on (emphasis in original: Read the rest of this entry »

We are proud to present our traditional end-of-year statistics below.

Top 5 blog posts 2015 (in terms of views):

  1. Open Access and the Power of Editorial Boards: Why Elsevier Plays Hardball with Deviant Linguists
  2. Copyright, Creative Commons and other Calamities in Scientific Publishing
  3. Out in June: “The Political Economy of Microfinance: Financializing Poverty”
  4. How religious leaders may influence climate change regulation: The success of the papal encyclical Laudato Sii
  5. Will the Real Anonymous Please Stand Up? German Facebook Page Free Rides on #OpISIS

Top 5 search terms guiding visitors to our blog in 2015:

  1. lawrence lessig organizations founded
  2. Andhra Pradesh microfinance crisis (also #1 in 2011, 2012 & 2014, #2 in 2013)
  3. Methodological nationalism
  4. cc
  5. g20 2009

Top 5 countries our visitors came from in 2015 (last year’s position in brackets):

  1. United States (1)
  2. India (2)
  3. Germany (3)
  4. United Kingdom (4)
  5. Australia (-)

Top series in 2015:

  1. Excerpts from “The Political Economy of Microfinance: Financializing Poverty” (9 out of 9 posts in 2015)
  2. Bordercrossing Books (2/14)
  3. The Series Series (1/10)

In total we published 29 new posts in 2015, almost as many as in 2014 (30 posts); nevertheless, this means that we failed our new year’s resolution from last year by two posts. The number of views grew compared to last year and reached a total of 36,283. Interestingly wordpress.com introduced a distinction between “visitors” and “views” in 2012; in terms of visitors, 2015 actually has been our most successful year ever with 25,355 visitors, beating the count of 24,983 visitors in 2013.

govxborders-visitorstats2009-2015

 

(leonhard)

Yesterday night, the representatives of 196 nations reached what The Guardian called “the world’s greatest diplomatic success” at the 21st UN climate conference, COP21, in Paris. After the dramatic failure of COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009 to reach an agreement for committing the nations of the world to cut carbon emissions, Paris was hailed as the “our best chance to safe the planet“.

I observed the intense build-up towards the Paris COP with much apprehension because, based on a historical analysis of the COPs leading up to the Copenhagen event, my coauthors and I detected the staging of a COP as a “high-stakes” event as potentially problematic for reaching a successful outcome. In our paper, we argued that in the light of extremely high fragmentation in the field developing prior to Copenhagen, the staging of COP15 as a high-stakes event backfired, exacerbating feelings of distrust and unbridgeable disagreement among the negotiating parties. We identified agenda-setting, the possibilities for informal interaction and negotiation leadership as crucial factors influencing the success of negotiations. We also argued that an intense and frustrating pre-COP meeting cycle could decrease the negotiators’ motivation.

The Paris COP allows us now to reflect on our argument and “test” whether our findings can be used to explain its outcome. Somewhat in contrast to our argument, COP21 was also preceded by intense years of negotiations, often on a daily basis. Yet, while the negotiations prior to Copenhagen revolved around the highly contested technical details of the Kyoto Protocol’s policy instruments, they were marked by diplomatic achievements such as the climate accord struck between the USA and China prior to Paris.

In line with our findings, the way the Paris COP was “enacted”, particularly by the negotiation leaders, was a key to its success. For instance, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and his colleague Laurence Tubiana – maybe paradoxically – formally installed informal meetings to enable consensus-building in small groups and prevent fragmentation. When the deal threatened to fail, the French negotiation leaders formed working groups and asked dissenting parties to chair these groups, thus forcing them into a proactive leadership role. Additionally, the staging of COP21 decidedly differed from previous COPs: usually the heads of states come in at the end of the negotiations, but were asked to open the meeting in Paris, thus setting a clear mandate for their negotiators to reach a consensus.

Following David Victor, we questioned in our paper whether the UNFCCC’s principles of inclusiveness and consensus can be upheld or are in the way of a climate deal. In the light of clever negotiation leadership and intense preceding diplomatic efforts outlined above, COP21 has shown that the inclusion of small countries can actually be an important force for change and ambition, as the UNFCCC has envisioned. Indeed, it was the small island states and least developed countries that formed a “high ambition coalition” leading to a 1.5-degree temperature target in the new agreement, which is more ambitious than the previous 2 degree target, but necessary to ensure the survival of countries in low-lying coastal areas.

At least for a short moment, today I feel hopeful for the world my daughters will live in in the future thanks to “the miracle of Paris”. Of course, it remains to be seen what the ratification process will look like in the next year – the history of the Kyoto Protocol tells us that what is hailed as a miracle today may eventually turn out to be a devil in disguise in the future.

Is it dangerous to take a public domain picture from Wikipedia and use it on your blog or print it on a T-shirt? Last week the  COMMUNIA blog wrote about a copyright case in Germany where several users of public domain pictures received letters from the lawyers of Mannheim’s Reiss-Engelhorn museum. The letters demanded payment for the use of photos of public domain art works that had been uploaded to Wikipedia. The museum justifies this legal action by pointing to the costs of digitizing their artworks and the respective acquisition of some form of ancillary copyright protection for simple photographs (“Lichtbildschutz”, § 72 in the German copyright law). On Wikimedia Commons, the repository that hosts media for Wikipedia, there is already a separate category for “Images subject to Reiss Engelhorn lawsuit”.

screenshot-kategorie-REM-bilder-rechtsstreit

Amongst the several recipients of the letters were not only Wikimedia Germany and the Wikimedia Foundation, but also the online radio station detektor.fm and the non-profit website Musical&Co, which features music-related articles authored by children for children.  Read the rest of this entry »

I’m very pleased to announce the publication of a new English-language textbook on the management of inter-organizational relations written and edited by Jörg Sydow, Gordon Müller-Seitz and myself and published by Palgrave. While several textbooks on specific topics such as strategic alliancesoutsourcing and offshoring or social networks are already out there, there was to date no comprehensive textbook dealing with different forms of inter-organizational relations from a management perspective that could be used in English-language courses on managing alliances and networks.Palgrave Bild

Several academically-oriented books such as the Oxford Handbook of Inter-Organizational Relations or the book Managing Dynamic Networks are useful to complement teaching, but are – in our experience – too theoretical to structure an entire course. Conversely, practitioner-oriented texts like the Manager’s Guide to Choosing and Using Collaborative Networks can only complement, but not fill an entire university course. A case collection on alliance management has been edited by the Ivey School of Business, but this collection does not include textbook chapters.

Our new book aims to include both an introduction to several forms of inter-organizational relations and the underlying academic debates as well as a collection of case studies highlighting particular managerial issues. In an effort to promote research-led teaching, all cases were developed on the basis of research projects conducted by members of the Research Group Inter-firm Networks and the Group’s international network. The book is structured in six parts, four of which comprise the main forms of inter-organizational relations that are distinguished: strategic alliances and networks, regional networks and clusters, global production and supply networks, and innovation and project networks. Especially the chapter on global production and supply networks includes a debate about transnational governance issues and discusses, for instance, the challenges associated with transnationalizing professional services or issues of accountability and liability in global production networks.

Five case studies are available for each of these network types, each focusing on particular management challenges. For strategic alliances and networks, for instance, Jörg Sydow together with Horst Findeisen, Vice President at the Star Alliance Services GmbH, wrote a case on the institutionalization of new management structures in the Star Alliance. For regional networks and clusters, Chacko Kannothra and Stephan Manning from the University of Massachusetts in Boston developed a case on the new impact sourcing trend and its implications for regional development in India. For global production and supply networks, Miriam Wilhelm from the University of Groningen presents details from her in-depth research on Toyota’s practices for managing cooperation and competition. In the chapter on innovation and project networks, Leonhard Dobusch wrote about the development of the international network organization behind Wikimedia.

Overall, this book tackles not only a border-crossing issue – management practices and challenges arising outside of hierarchical organizational boundaries – but also aims to bridge the gap between theory and practice in a new textbook format geared towards advanced bachelor, master and MBA students. The book is complemented by a companion website where teaching notes, a glossary and further informative links for each case are provided.

opisis_anonymous_fotoIn Germany, the renewed interest and media attention on the so-called ‘hacker collective’ Anonymous in the course of its recent #OpISIS – activities targeting online resources of Daesh terrorist groups – has lead to discussions whether one of the most followed German Facebook pages that is labeled “Anonymous” actually and legitimately belongs to Anonymous.

In a way, this is exactly the question that Dennis Schoeneborn and I have addressed in our recent paper on  “Fluiditiy, Identity and Organizationality: The Communicative Constitution of Anonymous” (available open access until Dec. 4, 2015). If “Anonymous” is merely a label that anyone can pick up and use, how can some form of organizational identity and boundary be achieved? In short, if anyone can be Anonymous, who cannot speak on behalf of Anonymous? To address these questions, we investigated identity claims in the context of operations where the attribution of respective activities to Anonymous was disputed.

In the current debate, an article in Germany’s largest online news portal Spiegel Online illustrates how difficult drawing the line between ‘authentic’ or ‘real’ and ‘fake’ Anonymous communication can be. After emphasizing the huge numbers of additional followers a facebook page called “Anonymous.Kollektiv” allegedly run by Anonymous had received during #OpISIS (the page attracted 400.000 new fans within just one week in addition to their previous count of 1 million), the article points to the questionable content the site shares. Main topics are conspiracy theories, general criticism of “the lying media” (“Lügenpresse” in Germany) and many other more or less right-wing political issues. But then, at least conspiracy theories and criticism of mainstream media are also recurrent themes of many other social media accounts attributed to Anonymous. Read the rest of this entry »

Open Access logo

Open Access logo

The recent infight between the world’s largest academic publishing company, Elsevier, and (soon: former) editors of one of their journals over attempts to make the journal open access – that is, freely available online – demonstrates the potential power of editorial boards in shaping the digital future of academic publishing.

The academic publishing system runs on reputation. Researchers gain reputation by publishing in reputable journals, which are more read and cited than other journals. The better the reputation of a journal, the more prestigious is it to review and serve as a member of the editorial board. Of course, the related reputation dynamic is self-stabilizing and highly path dependent because prestigious journals get more submissions, have higher rejection rates, more prestigious authors and reviewers, all of which contributes to being cited more often, which in turn is the key reputation metric in most disciplines (see a paper by Jakob Kapeller and myself on this issue for the field of economics).

The path dependence of journal reputation in contempary academic publishing is one of the reasons – if not the main reason – why new open access journals face a steep uphill battle against incumbent journals. The few open access journals that managed to acquire substantial prestige such as some of Public Library of Science (PLoS) journals did so mostly because of the very high prestige of founding editors, including nobel laureates. It is also the reason why simply calling for researchers to switch to open access outlets won’t work. Since careers and funding depend on the proven ability to publish in established “top journals”, researchers in general and early-career researchers in particular have strong incentives to avoid newly founded open access outlets.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Book

Governance across borders: transnational fields and transversal themes. Leonhard Dobusch, Philip Mader and Sigrid Quack (eds.), 2013, epubli publishers.
April 2017
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