Sub-theme 56: Organizing for and against Digital Platforms

Georg Reischauer
WU – Vienna University of Economics and Business, Austria
Stefan Haefliger
Bayes Business School, United Kingdom
Evelyn Micelotta
University of Ottawa, Canada

Call for Papers

Digital platforms are a new form of organizing that have become ubiquitous in modern society (Mikołajewska-Zając et al., 2022; Steinberg, 2022). They connect actors who are not employed by the platform (Rullani & Haefliger, 2013) using various forms of algorithmic surveillance and control (de Vaujany et al., 2021; Newlands, 2020). Thus, a platform acts as an intermediary between two or more user sides.
Many scholars argue that digital platforms and organizations operating them – platform organizations – are not only transforming the business landscape but also the social fabric (Bailey et al., 2022; Davis, 2016; Zuboff, 2019). This is because platform organizations pursue various strategies to grow rapidly. Some scholars have explored how digital platforms shape and exploit institutions to their advantage (Boon et al., 2019; Gawer & Phillips, 2013; Mair & Reischauer, 2017; Punt et al., 2022; Uzunca et al., 2018). For example, they found that market entry strategies vary depending on the level of institutionalization. Others have examined how digital platforms grow by challenging the existing frames of non-platform-based organizations (Ansari et al., 2016; Gurses & Ozcan, 2015; Gurses et al., 2022).
Another stream of research has investigated how platform organizations grow by changing their membership rules and standardized interfaces. For instance, they selectively connect their users in different ways (de Vaujany et al., 2018; Reischauer & Mair, 2018a). Moreover, digital platforms may enter new market segments by targeting users from their existing platforms (e.g., Uber Eats who also targets users of Uber) (Müller et al., 2018) and redefining interfirm relationships (Reischauer et al., 2021; Reischauer & Hoffmann, 2023). These examples illustrate not only a new business logic but also a new visibility of consumer behavior (Leonardi & Treem, 2020; Reischauer & Ringel, 2023) that affects how technology is used for new connections (Bailey et al., 2022), that bypasses traditional institutions, and that creates new markets and industries (Lanzolla et al., 2020).
A growing body of work has examined the strategies of digital platform. However, less is known about how individuals and organizations who are affected by platforms organize for and against them. Recent studies have suggested that these responses vary across actor groups.

  • One group are platform users (Cutolo & Kenney, 2020; Reischauer & Mair, 2018b), such as Uber drivers or app developers. They may respond with multi-homing – they offer their goods and services on multiple platforms simultaneously (Cennamo et al., 2018). Another response is using a platform to start a new venture and become a (platform-dependent) entrepreneur (Cutolo & Kenney, 2020; Subramanian et al., 2021). Yet another platform user response is resistance (Gegenhuber et al., 2022; Karanović et al., 2021).

  • A second group are policy makers and civil society members. Studies showed that these responses vary across levels. For example, at the urban level (Vith et al., 2019), city agencies have very different approaches towards platforms, such as regulation, ignorance, communication, and collaboration. Scholars have also found that civil society responses to platforms can encourage social innovation through cross-sector collaborations (Logue & Grimes, 2022).

  • A third group are incumbents, i.e., organizations that are not intermediaries (as platforms are) but are threatened by platforms, such as manufacturing firms or hospitals. This research highlights the key role of creating new organizational capabilities, as incumbents tend to be unfamiliar with the logics of being an intermediary rather than being the producer and seller of goods and services (Altman et al., 2022; Helfat & Raubitschek, 2018; Keller et al., 2022).

Despite these advances, our understanding of organizing for and against platforms remains fragmented. This sub-theme aims to provide a forum to address unexplored questions. We welcome all kinds of papers (conceptual, qualitative, quantitative, mixed methods) that draw on various disciplines. Submissions include but are not limited to papers addressing topics such as:

  • What market and institutional strategies do incumbents use to compete and/or collaborate with platforms?

  • How do platform users, civil society members, as well as members of incumbents and public organizations navigate the tensions of responding to platforms in their daily work?

  • How are platforms perceived and by whom?

  • How are controversies about the perception or role of platforms resolved in the public or private arena?

  • What is the role of cognitions and/or emotions in promoting or inhibiting responses to platforms?

  • What is the role of positive and negative social evaluations (e.g., reputation, celebrity stigma, legitimacy) and industry-specific sociocultural attributes for (entrepreneurial) responses?

  • Under which conditions are which forms of responses more likely?

  • How do responses from platform users, civil society members, as well as incumbents and public organizations to platforms change over time?

  • How do platform organizations react to responses directed at them and whom do they involve when reacting?

  • How do social structures constrain and enable the formation and evolution of responses?

  • How do responses alter the targeted platforms and/or those of the responding actors?



  • Altman, E. J., Nagle, F., and Tushman, M. L. (2022): 'The translucent hand of managed ecosystems: Engaging communities for value creation and capture'. Academy of Management Annals, 16 (1), 70-101.
  • Ansari, S., Garud, R., and Kumaraswamy, A. (2016): 'The disruptor's dilemma: Tivo and the U.S. Television ecosystem'. Strategic Management Journal, 37 (9), 1829-1853.
  • Bailey, D. E., Faraj, S., Hinds, P. J., Leonardi, P. M., and von Krogh, G. (2022): 'We are all theorists of technology now: A relational perspective on emerging technology and organizing'. Organization Science, 33 (1), 1-18.
  • Boon, W. P. C., Spruit, K., and Frenken, K. (2019): 'Collective institutional work: The case of Airbnb in Amsterdam, London and New York'. Industry and Innovation, 26 (8), 898-919.
  • Cennamo, C., Ozalp, H., and Kretschmer, T. (2018): 'Platform architecture and quality trade-offs of multihoming complements'. Information Systems Research, 29 (2), 461-478.
  • Cutolo, D., and Kenney, M. (2020): 'Platform-dependent entrepreneurs: Power asymmetries, risks, and strategies in the platform economy'. Academy of Management Perspectives, 35 (4), 584-605.
  • Davis, G. F. (2016): 'Can an economy survive without corporations? Technology and robust organizational alternatives'. Academy of Management Perspectives, 30 (2), 129-140.
  • de Vaujany, F.-X., Fomin, V. V., Haefliger, S., and Lyytinen, K. (2018): 'Rules, practices, and information technology: A trifecta of organizational regulation'. Information Systems Research, 29 (3), 755-773.
  • de Vaujany, F.-X., Leclercq-Vandelannoitte, A., Munro, I., Nama, Y., and Holt, R. (2021): 'Control and surveillance in work practice: Cultivating paradox in ‘new’ modes of organizing'. Organization Studies, 42 (5), 675-695.
  • Gawer, A., and Phillips, N. (2013): 'Institutional work as logics shift: The case of Intel’s transformation to platform leader'. Organization Studies, 34 (8), 1035-1071.
  • Gegenhuber, T., Schüßler, E., Reischauer, G., and Thäter, L. (2022): 'Building collective institutional infrastructures for decent platform work: The development of a crowdwork agreement in Germany'. Research in the Sociology of Organizations, 79, 43-68.
  • Gurses, K., and Ozcan, P. (2015): 'Entrepreneurship in regulated markets: Framing contests and collective action to introduce pay tv in the U.S.'. Academy of Management Journal, 58 (6), 1709-1739.
  • Gurses, K., Yakis-Douglas, B., and Ozcan, P. (2022): 'Digitalization versus regulation: How disruptive digital communication technologies alter institutional contexts through public interest framing'. Research in the Sociology of Organizations, 83, 133-166.
  • Helfat, C. E., and Raubitschek, R. S. (2018): 'Dynamic and integrative capabilities for profiting from innovation in digital platform-based ecosystems'. Research Policy, 47 (8), 1391-1399.
  • Karanović, J., Berends, H., and Engel, Y. (2021): 'Regulated dependence: Platform workers’ responses to new forms of organizing'. Journal of Management Studies, ,58 (4), 1070-1106.
  • Keller, A., Güttel, W., Konlechner, S., and Reischauer, G. (2022): 'Overcoming path-dependent dynamic capabilities'. Strategic Organization, forthcoming.
  • Lanzolla, G., Lorenz, A., Miron-Spektor, E., Schilling, M., Solinas, G., and Tucci, C. (2020): 'Digital transformation: What is new if anything? Emerging patterns and management research'. Academy of Management Discoveries, 6 (3), 341-350.
  • Leonardi, P., and Treem, J. W. (2020): 'Behavioral visibility: A new paradigm for organization studies in the age of digitization, digitalization, and datafication'. Organization Studies, 41 (12), 1601-1625.
  • Logue, D., and Grimes, M. (2022): 'Platforms for the people: Enabling civic crowdfunding through the cultivation of institutional infrastructure'. Strategic Management Journal, 43 (3), 663-693.
  • Mair, J., and Reischauer, G. (2017): 'Capturing the dynamics of the sharing economy: Institutional research on the plural forms and practices of sharing economy organizations'. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 125, 11-20.
  • Mikołajewska-Zając, K., Márton, A., and Zundel, M. (2022): 'Couchsurfing with bateson: An ecology of digital platforms'. Organization Studies, 43 (7), 1115-1135.
  • Müller, C. N., Kijl, B., and Visnjic, I. (2018): 'Envelopment lessons to manage digital platforms: The cases of Google and Yahoo'. Strategic Change, 27 (2), 139-149.
  • Newlands, G. (2020): 'Algorithmic surveillance in the gig economy: The organization of work through Lefebvrian conceived space'. Organization Studies, 42 (5), 719-737.
  • Punt, M. B., van Kollem, J., Hoekman, J., and Frenken, K. (2022): 'Your Uber is arriving now: An analysis of platform location decisions through an institutional lens'. Strategic Organization, forthcoming.
  • Reischauer, G., Güttel, W., and Schüßler, E. (2021): 'Aligning the design of intermediary organisations with the ecosystem'. Industry and Innovation, 28 (5), 594-619.
  • Reischauer, G., and Hoffmann, W. (2023): Digital coopetition: Creating and capturing value with rivals in the age of algorithms, big data, and platforms. In C. Cennamo, G. Dagnino, & F. Zhu (Eds.): Research Handbook on Digital Strategy. Cheltenham, Edward Elgar: 360-375.
  • Reischauer, G., and Mair, J. (2018a): 'How organizations strategically govern online communities: Lessons from the sharing economy'. Academy of Management Discoveries, 4 (3), 220-247.
  • Reischauer, G., and Mair, J. (2018b): 'Platform organizing in the new digital economy: Revisiting online communities and strategic responses'. Research in the Sociology of Organizations, 57, 113-135.
  • Reischauer, G., and Ringel, L. (2023): 'Unmanaged transparency in a digital society: Swiss army knife or double-edged sword?'. Organization Studies, 44 (1): 77-104.
  • Rullani, F., and Haefliger, S. (2013): 'The periphery on stage: The intra-organizational dynamics in online communities of creation'. Research Policy, 42 (4), 941-953.
  • Steinberg, M. (2022): 'From automobile capitalism to platform capitalism: Toyotism as a prehistory of digital platforms'. Organization Studies, 43 (7), 1069-1090.
  • Subramanian, H., Mitra, S., and Ransbotham, S. (2021): 'Capturing value in platform business models that rely on user-generated content'. Organization Science, 32 (3), 804-823.
  • Uzunca, B., Rigtering, J. P. C., and Ozcan, P. (2018): 'Sharing and shaping: A cross-country comparison of how sharing economy firms shape their institutional environment to gain legitimacy'. Academy of Management Discoveries, 4 (3), 248-272.
  • Vith, S., Oberg, A., Höllerer, M. A., and Meyer, R. E. (2019): 'Envisioning the ‘sharing city’: Governance strategies for the sharing economy'. Journal of Business Ethics, 159 (4), 1023-1046.
  • Zuboff, S. (2019): 'Surveillance capitalism and the challenge of collective action'. New Labor Forum, 28 (1), 10-29.
Georg Reischauer is an Assistant Professor at WU – Vienna University of Economics and Business, Austria. His research focuses on the nexus of digital strategy, digital organization, and digital sustainability.
Stefan Haefliger is Professor of Strategic Management & Innovation at Bayes Business School, City University of London, United Kingdom. In his research and teaching he focuses on strategy and business models, organization theory and regulation, and open strategy and open innovation. Stefan’s research has appeared in journals such as ‘Organization Studies’, ‘Information Systems Research’, ‘Research Policy’, ‘MIS Quarterly’, and ‘Long Range Planning’.
Evelyn Micelotta is Associate Professor in Management at Telfer School of Management, University of Ottawa, Canada. Her research interests include institutional maintenance and change, family business and sociocultural dynamics in entrepreneurial settings. Evelyn’s research has been published in ‘Journal of Management’, ‘Academy of Management Annals’, ‘Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice’, ‘Organization Studies’, and ‘Family Business Review’.