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Collective Action in Organizations
Interaction and Engagement in an Era of Technological Change

$21.99 (P)

Part of Communication, Society and Politics

  • Date Published: February 2012
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521139632

$ 21.99 (P)

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About the Authors
  • Challenging the notion that digital media render traditional, formal organizations irrelevant, this book offers a new theory of collective action and organizing. Based on extensive surveys and interviews with members of three influential and distinctive organizations in the United States - The American Legion, AARP, and MoveOn - the authors reconceptualize collective action as a phenomenon in which technology enhances people’s ability to cross boundaries in order to interact with one another and engage with organizations. By developing a theory of Collective Action Space, Bimber, Flanagin, and Stohl explore how people's attitudes, behaviors, motivations, goals, and digital media use are related to their organizational involvement. They find that using technology does not necessarily make people more likely to act collectively, but contributes to a diversity of “participatory styles,” which hinge on people’s interaction with one another and the extent to which they shape organizational agendas. In the digital media age, organizations do not simply recruit people into roles, they provide contexts in which people are able to construct their own collective experiences.

    • Explores how people participate in public life through organizations
    • Examines The American Legion, AARP, and MoveOn, showing surprising similarities across these three organizations
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    Reviews & endorsements

    “Theories of collective action traditionally focus on the central role of organizations in overcoming the high cost of individual participation. In turn, new information and communication technologies and their ability to lower the costs of participation have been seen as sounding the death knell for such organizations. Starting instead from the perceptions, attitudes and actions of organizational members themselves, Bimber, Flanagin, and Stohl argue that individuals’ ‘participatory styles’ interact with organizational structures and the new information environment to create a complex “collective action space.” The result is not the death of formal organizations but a shift in power and agency from leaders to members. Collective Action in Organizations is a major contribution to both our empirical understanding of and our theorizing about civic and political engagement in the new information age.” —Michael X. Delli Carpini, Dean, Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania

    “This book ushers in a new era of theorizing on collective action. It turns both and contemporary notions of collective action on its head. First, this book brings the individual - and individual differences - back into traditional collective action by theorizing that people’s contributions are shaped not just by demographics or an economically driven cost-benefit calculus but more substantially by their interaction and engagement. Second, the book brings the relevance of the formal organization back into contemporary notions of collective action. Using compelling evidence, the authors argue that the advent of digital media enables formal organizations to offer much broader opportunities for people to define themselves and to establish their own participatory styles. By bringing to the fore both the individual and the formal organization, the authors offer a timely, balanced, and intellectually engaging corrective to previous under-socialized and over-socialized views of collective action.” —Noshir Contractor, Jane S. & William J. White Professor of Behavioral Sciences, Northwestern University

    “Collective Action in Organizations poses a fascinating theoretical and practical question: ‘How do people experience collective action within formal organizations in the contemporary media environment?’ Part of the answer that Bimber, Flanagin, and Stohl provide lies in the dynamic, ubiquitous communication context in which human organizing and collective action now occurs, one which provides people with an unprecedented array of low-cost, easy-to-use communication tools that facilitate collective organizing. The other part lies in a reconceptualization of collective action space. In support of their theory the authors report the results of a major NSF-supported research program in three major organizations: The American Legion, AARP, and Move On. This is a terrific book. It combines solid, new theorizing with crisp, well-executed data analysis. And, the results are surprising! Whether your interests lie in communication technologies, social movements, formal organizations, or some combination of the three, you will find Collective Action in Organizations a thought-provoking and idea-generating experience.” —Peter Monge, University of Southern California

    “Collective Action in Organizations offers a pathbreaking analysis of the role of new communication technologies in collective action. Its nuanced analysis reconceptualizes civic participation in terms of multiple levels of engagement and interaction afforded by various modes of communication, from face-to-face interaction to newly-minted social networking technologies. Bimber, Flanagin, and Stohl offer a theoretically sophisticated and empirically supported framework that reaffirms the importance of organizations in what appears to be the increasingly fragmented and individualized world of online participation, protest, and politics. Their model and research shows the multiple ways in which citizens connect with civic organizations and how communication technologies figure in this process. It picks up where Putnam’s Bowling Alone leaves off, revealing some surprising new wrinkles and dynamics that Putnam and his successors have not fully considered. This engaging book makes us rethink the role of new communication technologies in politics, public life, and in the lives of citizen participants.” —Marshall Scott Poole, Professor of Communication and Director of the Institute for Computing in the Humanities, Arts, and Social Science, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

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    Product details

    • Date Published: February 2012
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521139632
    • length: 240 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 153 x 14 mm
    • weight: 0.33kg
    • contains: 9 b/w illus. 17 tables
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of Contents

    1. Involvement in organizational collective action in an era of technological change
    2. The contemporary media environment and the evolution of boundaries in organization-based collective action
    3. The collective action space
    4. The American Legion, AARP, and MoveOn in collective action space
    5. Exploring collective action space
    6. Participatory styles, the individual, and the contemporary organization.

  • Instructors have used or reviewed this title for the following courses

    • Accelerated Composition: Engaging in Public Writing
    • Innovating with Information Technology
    • Media and Politics (doctoral seminar)
    • Persuasion and Propaganda: Social movements and community organization
    • Political Change and Development
    • Topics in Global Governance
  • Authors

    Bruce Bimber, University of California, Santa Barbara
    Bruce Bimber is Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he is also affiliated with the Department of Communication, and is founder and former director of the Center for Information Technology and Society. His interest in digital media and society arises from his training as an electrical engineer as well as a political scientist and from many years of observing the interconnections between social and technological innovation. He is author of Campaigning Online: The Internet in U.S. Elections (with Richard Davis) and Information and American Democracy (Cambridge University Press 2003). Bimber is a former Fellow of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

    Andrew Flanagin, University of California, Santa Barbara
    Andrew Flanagin is Professor of Communication at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he is also Director of the Center for Information Technology and Society. His research focuses on processes of collective organizing, particularly as influenced by the use of contemporary technologies; people's perceptions of the credibility of information gathered and presented online; the use of social media and social metadata for information sharing and assessment; and organizational technologies. He has published extensively across a wide variety of academic fields on various facets of social relations as implicated by technologies and technology use. He is the co-editor of Digital Media, Youth, and Credibility (2008) and the co-author of Kids and Credibility: An Empirical Examination of Youth, Digital Media Use, and Information Credibility (2010).

    Cynthia Stohl, University of California, Santa Barbara
    Cynthia Stohl is Professor of Communication at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and an affiliate faculty member of the Center for Information Technology and Society. Her work focuses on organizing and network processes across a wide range of global contexts, including corporate–NGO partnerships, activist organizing, and clandestine organizations. A signature of Stohl's work is global connectivity and her empirical studies span several countries in Europe and Asia as well as New Zealand and the United States. Her interests in communication technologies arose from her studies of boundary permeability and emerging networks in workplace participation programs, organizational collaborations and the contemporary global social justice movement. Stohl has published extensively in communication and organizational studies and is the author of Organizational Communication: Connectedness in Action (1995). She was recently elected a Fellow of the International Communication Association.

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