Philipp Poschmann and Peter Walgenbach (Uni Jena): Public Discourse and Organizational Issue Fields: Structuration of a Field around Digitalization in Germany

Contemporary institutional literature emphasizes the importance of interactions and relations between organizations as triggers for new meanings in issue fields. However, this perspective neglects the importance of field-external effects on organizational meaning construction. Drawing on the issue of digitalization in Germany, we examine the relationship between public discourse and organizational issue fields.

By applying topic modeling, we investigate newspaper articles about digitalization to gather frames of digitalization in public discourse. Further, we combine topic modeling and network analysis to analyze annual reports of large German corporations. We find that the appearance of a novel elastic frame in public discourse, which encompassed opportunities and risks of digitalization for corporations rather than merely technical aspects of the issue, triggered the structuration of the emerging organizational issue field around digitalization. Furthermore, the increasing prominence of the novel frame in public discourse further amplified the structuration of the issue field. More specifically, we find an increasing similarity in the organizations’ issue interpretations within the field that was not driven by technical (i.e., industry-specific) or structural variables of organizations—that is, factors that were usually considered as shaping an issue field—but by the increasing employment of the elastic frame at the overarching societal level. 



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