Sub-theme 02: [SWG] New Actors, Responsibilities, and Forms of Organizing in the Age of Digital Transformations

Itziar Castelló Molina
University of Surrey, United Kingdom
Frank de Bakker
IÉSEG School of Management, France
Glen Whelan
McGill University, Canada

Call for Papers

Digital technologies such as big data analytics, artificial intelligence or machine learning continue to transform power relations and organizational possibilities (Brusoni & Vaccaro, 2018; Haenlein & Kaplan, 2019; Lindebaum et al., 2020). On the one hand, a host of still relatively new ‘big tech’ corporations and platforms with significant capacities to direct and manipulate society have emerged as a result of their controlling substantial digital assets (Whelan, 2019; Zuboff, 2015). On the other hand, digital technologies have also given rise to a variety of new means by which individual citizens, social movements, and de-centralized networks can act, organize and exert influence from the ‘bottom up’. In short, and whilst various ‘old’ actors – e.g., states, the ‘old’ media – continue to be of clear importance, digitalization is contributing to major transformations in our organizational landscapes.
Following these important changes, in this sub-theme, we ask: how are digitaltransformations redefining the nature of, the relations between, and the (mutual) responsibilities of organizations and individuals? In doing so, we depart form the belief that digital technologies are now more or less inseparable from most significant social, political, and environmental concerns. Moreover, we are motivated by the recognition that considerations of inclusivity and exclusivity, empowerment and marginalization, and democracy and authority, are all shaped by digital technologies (e.g, Chai & Scully, 2019; Etter et al., 2019; Flyverbom et al., 2019; Peeters & Widlak, 2018; Sobieraj, 2017).
We will approach the challenges of the new responsibilities emerging with these digital transformations from an organizing social responsibilities perspective. This relates to the social and environmental impacts that arise from ‘organizing the digital’ (Leonardi, 2011), and to the actors, forms and responsibilities associated therewith. We are interested in areas as broad as networked engagements (Castelló et al., 2016), stakeholders’ perceptions of online disclosure (Parsons, 2019; She & Michelon, 2019), or the different arenas of citizenship (Whelan et al., 2013) that are altered and enabled by new technologies. In addition, we are inviting research that addresses the internal perspective, considering the role of individuals in organizations in the age of digitalization and reflecting upon how this affects organizing itself? Ultimately this links to discussions about the boundaries of the organization – further explorations of the role of partial and complete organization (Ahrne & Brunsson, 2011; Berkowitz & Souchaud, 2019; Rasche et al., 2013) and the role of the state in defining these boundaries may then also be helpful here.
As these remarks indicate, digital transformations are giving rise to new risks that can undermine, and new possibilities that can advance, a variety of social good considerations. Rather than focusing on one or the other of these perspectives, we invite papers that adopt a more positive, a more negative, or a more mixed, outlook, on the new actors, organizations and responsibilities that are emerging with digitalization. We aim to foster an inspiring sub-theme that explores the varieties of perspectives involved in order to stimulate learning and exchange.
Amongst other things, papers in this sub-theme might focus on such matters as cyberbullying; work in the sharing economy; algorithmic opacity; the role of influencers; fake news and ‘real’ reporting; or privacy and surveillance. Moreover, they might investigate responsibilities associated with digitally transformed means of emoting and reasoning, documenting and recording, agitating and mobilizing, or sustaining and consuming. Examples are plenty, examining which new actors and new organizational forms emerge in managing new transparency issues derived from big data and increased datalization (Fleming, 2019; Hansen & Flyverbom, 2015); whether and how new forms of activism are enabled through social media (Barberá-Tomás et al., 2019; Kaun & Uldam, 2018; Toubiana & Zietsma, 2017); or in which new ways corporations engage with their stakeholders online (Castelló et al., 2016).
In slightly more detail, we would welcome papers that address (combinations of) the following questions:

  • Who are the new key actors in the digital economy? What forms do they take? What are their capabilities?

  • What new responsibilities have arisen alongside digitalization? Which actors individuals or organizations change, evolve, co-exist in the digital transition?

  • What are the (unintended) consequences of digitalization within organizations?

  • How does digitalization change or reshape existing norms and institutions? How does this affect individual and organizational behaviour?

  • What alternative or novel forms of business and society interactions are enabled by digitalization?

  • How does digitilization impact on legitimacy? How does increased data storage and data retrieval capacities impact on legitimacy challenges and maintenance?

  • What are the potential sources of regulation of tech firms, and how does this change when in the near future practically every firm could potentially be considered to be a tech firm?

  • How do new responsibilities change or challenge the nature of organizing, and how do new forms of organizing affect organizational responsibilities?

  • How do all these questions play out in developing countries? What opportunities and threats emerge from digitalization in this context?

  • How does digitalization enable us to study actors, responsibilities and forms of organizing in a novel way?

We look forward to reading your work on new actors, responsibilities and forms of organization in the age of digitalization, and to seeing you in Amsterdam!


Ahrne, G., & Brunsson, N. (2011): “Organization outside organizations: the significance of partial organization.” Organization, 18 (1), 83–104.
  • Barberá-Tomás, D., Castelló, I., de Bakker, F.G.A., & Zietsma, C. (2019): “Energizing through visuals: how social entrepreneurs use emotion-symbolic work for social change.” Academy of Management Journal, 62 (6), 1789–1817.
  • Berkowitz, H., & Souchaud, A. (2019): “(Self-)Rregulation of sharing economy platforms through partial meta-organizing.” Journal of Business Ethics, 159 (4), 961–976.
  • Brusoni, S., & Vaccaro, A. (2017): “Ethics, technology and organizational innovation.” Journal of Business Ethics, 143 (2), 223–226.
  • Castelló, I., Etter, M., & Nielsen, F.A. (2016): “Strategies of legitimacy through social media: The networked strategy.” Journal of Management Studies, 53 (3), 402–432.
  • Chai, S., & Scully, M.A. (2019): “It’s about distributing rather than sharing: Using labor process theory to probe the ‘sharing’ economy.” Journal of Business Ethics, 159 (4), 943–960.
  • Etter, M., Fieseler, C., & Whelan, G. (2019): “Sharing economy, sharing responsibly? Corporate social responsibility in the digital age.” Journal of Business Ethics, 159 (4), 935–942.
  • Fleming, P. (2019): “Robots and organization studies: Why robots might not want to steal your job.” Organization Studies, 40 (1), 23–38.
  • Flyverbom, M., Deibert, R., & Matten, D. (2019): “The governance of digital technology, big data, and the internet: new roles and responsibilities for business.” Business & Society, 58 (1), 3–19.
  • Haenlein, M., & Kaplan, A. (2019): “A brief history of AI: On the past, present and future of artificial intelligence.” California Management Review, 61 (4), 5–14.
  • Hansen, H.K., & Flyverbom, M. (2015): “The politics of transparency and the calibration of knowledge in the digital age.” Organization, 22 (6), 872–889.
  • Kaun, A., & Uldam, J. (2018): “Digital activism: After the hype.” New Media & Society, 20 (6), 2099–2106.
  • Leonardi, P.M. (2011): “When flexible routines meet flexible technologies: affordance, constraint, and the imbrication of human and material agencies.” MIS Quarterly, 35 (1), 147–167.
  • Lindebaum, D., Vesa, M., & den Hond, F. (2020): “Insights from The Machine Stops to better understand rational assumptions in algorithmic decision-making and its implications for organizations.” Academy of Management Review, 45 (1), 247–263.
  • Parsons, C. (2019): “The (in)effectiveness of voluntarily produced transparency reports.” Business & Society, 58 (1), 103–131.
  • Peeters, R., & Widlak, A. (2018): “The digital cage: Administrative exclusion through information architecture – The case of the Dutch civil registry’s master data management system.” Government Information Quarterly, 35 (2), 175–183.
  • Rasche, A., de Bakker, F.G.A., & Moon, J. (2013): “Complete and partial organizing for corporate social responsibility.” Journal of Business Ethics, 115 (4), 651–663.
  • Sobieraj, S. (2017): “Bitch, slut, skank, cunt: Patterned resistance to women’s visibility in digital publics.” Information, Communication & Society, 21 (11), 1700–1714.
  • She, C., & Michelon, G. (2019): “Managing stakeholder perceptions: Organized hypocrisy in CSR disclosures on Facebook.” Critical Perspectives on Accounting, 61, 54–76.
  • Toubiana, M., & Zietsma, C. (2017): “The message is on the wall? Emotions, social media and the dynamics of institutional complexity. Academy of Management Journal, 60 (3), 922–953.
  • Whelan, G. (2019): “Born political: A dispositive analysis of google and copyright.” Business & Society, 58 (1), 42–73.
  • Whelan, G., Moon, J., & Grant, B. (2013): “Corporations and citizenship arenas in the age of social media.” Journal of Business Ethics, 118 (1), 777–790.
  • Zuboff, S. (2015): “Big other: surveillance capitalism and the prospects of an information civilization.” Journal of Information Technology, 30 (1), 75–89.
Itziar Castelló Molina is Senior Lecturer at Surrey Business School, University of Surrey, United Kingdom, where she is part of the Center for Digital Economies. Her research looks into the microfoundations organizations and fields, with a focus on the role of the digital economy in the transformation of business and society relations. She looks at the narratives and emotions that people and organization use to make sense of their social and environmental responsibilities. Itziar’s research appeared in journals like the ‘Academy of Management Journal’, ‘Journal of Management Studies’, ‘Research Policy’, ‘Business & Society’, ‘Journal of Business Ethics’, and ‘Corporate Governance’. She is co-editor of a special issues for ‘Journal of Business Ethics’ on CSR and digital economies.
Frank de Bakker is Professor of Corporate Social Responsibility at IÉSEG School of Management in Lille, France, where he coordinates ICOR, the IÉSEG Center for Organizational Responsibility. In his research, he combines insights from institutional theory and social movement studies to examine interactions between activist groups and business firms on issues of corporate social responsibility (CSR). Frank’s research appeared in journals like ‘Academy of Management Review’, ‘Academy of Management Journal’, ‘Journal of Management Studies’, ‘Business & Society’, ‘Organization Studies’, ‘Academy of Management Discoveries’ and several others.
Glen Whelan is a Lecturer at McGill University, Montréal, and Visiting Scholar at York University, Toronto, Canada. His current research focuses on how high-tech corporations impact on society. He regularly publishes with leading university presses, and in such journals as ‘Business & Society’, ‘Business Ethics Quarterly’, ‘Ephemera’, ‘Journal of Business Ethics’, and ‘Journal of Management Inquiry’. He is the current social media editor for ‘Journal of Business Ethic’s, and has recently co-edited a special issue on the sharing economy for the same journal. He is also co-editor for a special issue in progress at ‘Organization’ on “Exploring the Dark Side of Digitalization”.