With the growing ubiquity of digitally intermediated interactions, the emergence of new markets and entrepreneurial identities shows bottom-up dynamics that are fundamentally different from how boundaries used to be drawn in the past. Much of the “next big thing” is no longer dictated by a few central mobilizers with premeditated change efforts but the crowd’s uncoordinated, massively distributed interaction structure that spans time and space. Such changing bases and dynamics of novelty emergence call for a new theoretical approach that is not bound by the assumption rooted in social movement theory--that a coordinated form of change is necessary for variations to be successful.
In the absence of central actors constructing a feature space with social codes that they set forth, how do new categories and identities come about? As categorization happens, how do young ventures experiment with different versions of their possible-selves until they find one that maps on to a new, viable category?
The fate of new ventures co-evolves with the emergence of categorization in a new market space. In order to explain the variance in entrepreneurial trajectories, I first study how we get to the point where there are social codes from the crowd’s continuous production and consumption of labels. Then, I look at how ventures navigate shifting meaning patterns in the external semantic landscape to update what they say about themselves ("who we are" and "what we do") and become the reference point of a viable category.