Academic journal article Emergence: Complexity and Organization

Construction in Human Interaction Dynamics: Organizing Mechanisms, Strategic Ambiguity and Interpretive Dominance

Academic journal article Emergence: Complexity and Organization

Construction in Human Interaction Dynamics: Organizing Mechanisms, Strategic Ambiguity and Interpretive Dominance

Article excerpt

In this paper, we extend the understanding of human interaction dynamics by examining three case studies of social-action-networks whose purpose was to achieve collective action on a complex social or environmental issue. Our research questions were "How do the organizing mechanisms of fine grained interactions construct emergent order?" and "Why do influencing strategies enable diffuse networks to emerge into discernible collective action?" The studies provided information about the fine-grained interactions as well as the coarse-grained properties that emerged. At the fine-grained level, there was a dynamic tension between structured and formalized organizing mechanisms aimed at organization and those that actively permitted (dis)organization. Network strategic intent was coherent at the coarse-grained level and varied between a clearly defined strategy and strategic ambiguity. We examine these empirical findings in relation to recent literature on constructing forces, strategic ambiguity and interpretive dominance.

CONSTRUCTION IN HUMAN INTERACTION DYNAMICS: ORGANIZING MECHANISMS, STRATEGIC AMBIGUITY AND INTERPRETIVE DOMINANCE

Human interaction dynamics (HID) conceptualizes human organizing and leadership as a complex adaptive system, and studies the complex causality in human interactions and the structures and properties that emerge from these interactions (Hazy & Surie, AOM, 2012; Gell-Mann, 2002). Human interactions at the fine-grained level enable agents to coalesce a diffuse network into synchronous collective actions. Such collective action is discernible as emergent order (Stacey, Griffin & Shaw, 2000) at the coarse-grained level. While previous studies have focussed on collective action, the mechanisms that shape agent interactions and the spaces where interactions emerge as collective action have received less attention. Goldstein (2011) argued that emergent order 'arises out of, yet transcends' the lower level interactions, not through 'self-organization' as described by Chiles, Meyer and Hench (2004), but rather through 'self-transcending constructions' (STCs). From this perspective an overemphasis on the spontaneity of emergence distracts attention away from the 'containers' and STCs that enable the spontaneity to arise (Goldstein, 2000, 2004, 2011).

This paper builds on Goldstein's argument, reporting on an empirical study that identified constructing forces (Goldstein, 2004) at the fine-grained level in diffuse social-action-networks through analysis of three case studies. We focus on the organizing mechanisms and the influencing strategies as constructing forces in social-actionnetwork interaction spaces. We ask how and why these forces affect the emergence of coherent collective action events. Events in social-action spaces are collective mobilizations, decision making outcomes and network strategic intent. Coarse-grained properties transcend individual agents yet are influenced by individuals' strategic intent and the agent interactions enabled through organizing mechanisms.

To determine 'how' we examined critical incidents as collective action events and the type of organizing mechanisms that shaped these at the fine-grained level. At the coarse-grained level we determined collective action properties from publicly stated 'organizational' descriptions and collectively agreed principles that contained the social-action-network events. To determine 'why' we examined the influencing strategies that gave the rationale for the organizing. These are expressed by the agents themselves as their individual intent for interacting with other agents at the finegrained level and as the strategic intent of the social-action-network at the coarsegrained level. We found mechanisms that were formalized and ordered and others which permitted disorder. Different influencing strategies enabled collective actions to emerge that varied between those with a clearly defined strategic intent as interpretative dominance ordered the organizing mechanisms, and those with a pluralistic and broad strategic intent as strategic ambiguity emerged and organizing mechanisms were disordered. …

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