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Research Program

Crowds: Syncing our theory with the spirit of our times

With the growing ubiquity of digitally intermediated interactions, the emergence of market spaces and entrepreneurial identities shows bottom-up dynamics that are fundamentally different from how boundaries used to be drawn in the past. For instance, when there is a new market or technological disruption, individually motivated actors, ranging from bloggers and potential consumers to suppliers and producers, assemble in a shared discourse space to make sense of the emerging opportunity space. As they talk, certain “social codes” emerge at the level of social interactions to explain or describe new product features and the potential use of a new technology. These socially emergent codes help distributed actors find one another at reduced search costs and reach a critical mass of interrelated interpretations (e.g., drone x delivery, IoT x fitness), at which point a “crowd” forms to further facilitate the sensemaking process.


  • From the crowd’s continuous production and consumption of new social codes, why are some more likely than others to get recorded into collective memory and subsequently organizational identities?

  • The ease with which a crowd forms in the absence of coordination means that the overall form and direction of the market discourse is no longer dictated by a select few gatekeepers’ product and market evaluations but rather shaped conjointly by the crowd’s emergent conversations. Against such changing market dynamics, how do young organizations navigate the tension between emergent arena (social media) versus institutionalized arena (news media) to forge an identity that leads to greater visibility?


This line of research looks at the pre-history of a new market’s emergence from one level below—at the level of intersubjectivity that serves as a bridge between individual actors’ subjective interpretations and the early market’s convergence on niches and role structures.

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