Sub-theme 49: Living the Network: Practices of Connecting and Bridging at Work

Maria C. Binz-Scharf
City College of New York, USA
Emmanuelle Vaast
McGill University, Montréal, Canada
João Vieira da Cunha
School of Social and Political Sciences, Technical University of Lisbon, Portugal

Call for Papers

In organizations, people from various cultures and worldviews need to work together to achieve their own and their organization's goals (Armstrong & Cole, 1995; Northcraft et al., 1995). Research has emphasized how networks connect people and bridge various boundaries keeping them apart (Brass et al., 2004; Tichy, 1981).

This sub-theme explores networks in organizations from a practice perspective that views organizational networks as something that people do, instead of something that people have. In a practice perspective, structures of meanings, rules and norms are (re-)produced as people adopt, adapt, and improvise practices to address their everyday challenges (Orlikowski, 2002). This approach has often been applied to prescribed procedures and ties of authority and cooperation. Our sub-theme calls for practice-based research on the formation and negotiation of informal ties.

Topics of interest include:

  • Practices of building and maintaining social ties among people who do not have prescribed ties of authority and cooperation
  • Practices of seeking and negotiating others' help to address challenges at work, i.e. how people use their networks
  • Practices of bridging occupational cultures, worldviews and geographic locations


Connecting practices

We invite papers that explore practices of establishing and maintaining social ties, e.g.:

  • How do people build social ties across the boundaries raised by different institutional and occupational cultures, worldviews, and locations?
  • How do people use information technology to connect with others in their organizations?
  • How do individuals turn shared experience and shared membership into enduring social ties with others?
  • How do individuals protect social ties from requirements of cooperation in organizations such as secrecy, conflicting goals and tensions among departments?


Bridging practices

We invite papers that explore practices of bridging cultures and worldviews, e.g.:

  • How do people turn their personal and positional power into influence tactics?
  • How do people enlist the help of others across departmental boundaries, cultural differences, clashing worldviews and gaps across continents?
  • How do people enlist the help of others when others do not want to help them?
  • What are the intended and unintended outcomes of informal social networks at work?

We intend to host conversations that uncover the practices that generate and extend networks of informal relationships in organizations. We call for original, theoretical and/or empirical, contributions that rely on a variety of methods and theories.



Armstrong, David & Paul Cole (1995): 'Managing distances and differences in geographically distributed work groups.' In: S.E. Jackson & M.N. Ruderman (eds.): Diversity in Work Teams: Research Paradigms for a Changing Workplace. Washington, D.C.: APA, 187–216.
Brass, Daniel J., Joseph Galaskiewicz, Henrich R. Greve & Wenpin Tsai (2004): 'Taking stock of networks and organizations: a multilevel perspective.' Academy of Management Review, 47 (6), 795–817.
Northcraft, Gregory B., Jeffrey T. Polzer, Margaret A. Neale & Roderick M. Kramer (1995): 'Diversity, social identity and performance: emergent social dynamics in cross-functional teams.' In: S.E. Jackson & M.N. Ruderman (eds.): Diversity in Work Teams: Research Paradigms for a Changing Workplace. Washington, D.C.: APA, 69–96.
Orlikowski, Wanda (2002): 'Knowing in practice: enacting a collective capability in distributed organizing.' Organization Science, 13 (3), 249–273.
Tichy, Noel M. (1981): 'Networks in organizations.' In: P.C. Nystrom & W.H. Starbuck (eds.): Handbook of Organizational Design. New York: Oxford University Press, 225–249.


Maria C. Binz-Scharf is Associate Professor of Management at the City College of New York (CUNY) and Visiting Researcher at the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). Her research examines how individuals search for and share knowledge to accomplish work. In particular, she is interested in understanding the role technology plays in processes of knowledge sharing and innovation. With the support of grants from the NSF and NIH, she has studied the knowledge networks of biologists, primary care physicians, and DNA forensic scientists.
Emmanuelle Vaast is Associate Professor of Information Systems at the Desautels Faculty of Management of McGill University. She examines how social practices emerge in various contexts. She is especially interested in how networks and practice constitute each other within and across organizations. Her research has been published in journals such as 'Organization Science', 'MIS Quarterly', and 'Information Systems Research'.
João Vieira da Cunha is Assistant Professor in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the Technical University of Lisbon in Portugal. His research focuses on how managers can take advantage of employee improvisation and deviance, including employees' use of social networks to cope with change and IT implementation. His research has appeared in journals such as the 'Academy of Management Review', 'Human Relations', and 'Journal of Management Studies'. He was co-organizer of EGOS 2010 in Lisbon, Portugal.