Crowdsourcing in the public sector: Why people participate in the urban maintenance platform

How can we use technology to improve the interactions and relationship between (local) governments and their citizens? This question guided my research when working for a Toronto-based think-tank led by Don Tapscott in 2010. Coming back from Toronto, I contributed to theorizing an online platform (web- and app-based) for reporting urban maintenance issues in Linz. Following a motion of former vice-mayor of Linz, Christian Forsterleitner, the administration implemented this idea and launched Other cities are now adopting the Schau.auf.Linz platform too, such as the City of Bregenz.

This project also resulted in numerous research activities such as publications and conference submissions (e.g., poster at the MIT Collective Intelligence Conference, HICCS 2017, a book chapter). Most recently, Lisa Schmidthuber, Dennis Hilgers, myself and Stefan Etzelstorfer have a paper forthcoming in Government Information Quarterly with the title: „The emergence of local open government: Determinants of citizen participation in online service reporting.“ This paper examines why people participate in public crowdsourcing platforms (also called citizensourcing), such as Schau.auf.Linz. The dataset for this paper is a survey sent to 2200 registered users (773 completed questionnaires, a response rate of 35.14 %). One finding is that people who already reported urban maintenance issues via traditional channels (e.g., telephone, e-mail) are more active on the platform.

Doctoral studies completed

I completed my doctoral studies at Johannes Kepler University Linz in July. The hard work in the last five years paid off, my cumulative dissertation, titled „Cultural Entrepreneurship: Making Audiences Attend, Understand, and Value“ is a witness to that. My supervisors of the dissertation were Robert Bauer (JKU Linz) and Michael Lounsbury (University of Alberta); Johann Füller (Universität of Innsbruck) served as the third examiner of my defense.
Cultural entrepreneurship has two meanings: first, it is generally associated with entrepreneurship in the creative industries, and second, it refers to a sociologically-grounded concept within management research seeking to shed light on the socio-cultural dynamics of entrepreneurial efforts (see Lounsbury and Glynn, 2001). I situate my dissertation in the latter sense.
The starting point of my dissertation is that a functioning product or service is not sufficient to establish a new venture in the marketplace. Why? New ventures suffer from the liability of newness – crucial external audiences such as media, consumers, and investors face uncertainty whether a new venture deserves their support. To address this challenge, a new venture seeks to manipulate its environment through cultural entrepreneurship efforts such as storytelling, impression management, and symbolic action that serve as identity claims aiming at influencing external audiences’ perceptions. These cultural entrepreneurship efforts support a venture in overcoming the liability of newness because it helps external audiences to understand who the new venture is, what it does and what it seeks to achieve. In response to such efforts, external audiences may perceive the venture as legitimately distinct (i.e. socially accepted and desirable) within a social context.
My cumulative dissertation consists of two major parts. In the first part, I review the intellectual journey that brought me to this point. The cumulative dissertation consists of six manuscripts, three published in well-respected international journals, the other three were submitted to reputable conferences.
Building on the insights of the first part, I develop a dynamic cultural entrepreneurship framework in the second part of my dissertation. The framework takes stock on how a new venture utilizes cultural entrepreneurship efforts with the aim to receive audience endorsements. An endorsement is a social evaluation predicated on three steps: an audience must attend to a venture, understand who the venture is and what it does, and, make some kind of value judgment, such as a pragmatic judgment regarding the value of a venture’s product offerings. I demonstrate that as a new venture evolves (i.e. launch, growth and maturity phase), it ought to address specific subtypes of an audience category (media, consumers, and investors) relevant to the current development stage of a venture (e.g. crowdfunders as investors in the launch phase, angel investors in the growth phase). I also consider the interactive effects among audiences, for instance, media stories positively affect investor decisions. At the start, a new venture can draw on its resources at hand (e.g. a founder’s social capital) to convince external audiences. As the new venture evolves, it can build on the audiences’ endorsements of previous phases in its cultural entrepreneurship efforts. These efforts are further influenced by three field level factors, namely, norms and rules of an industry, industry structure, and industry competition.
With this framework, I enrich conversations on new venture legitimation in general and the culture entrepreneurship literature specifically. I address three current gaps in the literature: first, the role of various audiences at a particular time of a new venture’s development, second, the role of openness or involvement of audiences in co-constructing legitimacy, and third, integrating the attention construct.

If you want to have a read my dissertation, please write me an e-mail to thomas.gegenhuber[a]

What’s Next? Disruptive/Collaborative Economy or Business as Usual?

The next annual meeting of SASE (Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics) dedicates its attention to the digital economy. The internet and web-based technologies enable forms of organizing that are innovative and beneficial for our society, yet, these forms can also be disruptive, challenging and a potential source for (new) inequalities. Elke Schüßler (JKU Linz), Robert Bauer (JKU Linz), Stefan Kirchner (Universität Hamburg) and I are hosting a mini-conference at the conference, where we want to discuss the role of regulation in the context of digital intermediaries  (Regulating Platform Capitalism: The Emerging Role of Digital Intermediaries). For more information see the SASE Homepage.


Drowning in data?

What happens after you collected your data? Rest assured, whether you are a PhD student or a more experienced researcher, facing the data behemoth is always overwhelming. Every time. Yet, the task is likely to be even more intimidating for early scholars.
It is at this very point – approaching your dataset after collection – where Leanne Hedberg and I hope that our blog post, that was just published on the blog of the Organization and Management Theory Division of the Academy of Management, will be helpful.
The insights provided in this post (based on a workshop held by Prof. Trish Reay, University of Alberta), aimed to help answer the questions of “What now?” and “Where do I possibly begin?”. You can access the blog post on the OMT blog, or from the JKU Homepage (Institute of Organization) as a pdf.-file


Making an Impression with Openness

Open Innovation, Open Strategy, Crowdsourcing, Co-creation – all these firm-centric concepts have their roots in an open systems perspective and emphasize the value of interacting with and leveraging external actors. Arguably, there is a growing interest in research and practice to understand openness. But what is openness? Organizational openness towards external actors is associated in the literature either with, first, including external actors by seeking their input; second, exercising transparency by revealing internal information; and third, combining these approaches in a coupled mode.

Most research foregrounds substantial openness functions, such as getting useful suggestions from external audiences or using transparency to increase commitment and understanding of a firm’s strategy. Building upon the work of Whittington and colleagues (2016), Leonhard Dobusch and I sought to shed further light on how openness can be used as an impression management instrument (i.e using openness as an instrument to influence external audiences’ perceptions). From an open strategy perspective, on the one side, we know little about the underlying mechanisms driving the impression management effects of openness. On the other side, the impression management literature has paid openness scant attention.

In our article forthcoming Long Range Planning Special Issue on Open Strategy („Making an impression through openness: How open strategy-making practices change in the evolution of new ventures“) we were intrigued by two new ventures’ radical openness approach on their respective blogs and the positive blog and media audience reactions to this organizational practice (the time-tracking application Mite and the social media management and sharing tool Buffer). Both firms broadcasted relevant strategic information (e.g. user statistics, financial numbers), actively engaged in a dialogue with their blog audiences and even included them into decision making. While such openness may also substantively contribute to organizational outcomes (e.g. getting useful suggestions), we examined its impression management function.

Drawing on a comparative, longitudinal case study of the two new ventures communication on strategy-related issues over a four-year period, we demonstrate that openness enables firms to tap into a repertoire of proactive impression management strategies in novel ways. For instance, dialoguing with users and soliciting their opinions can be leveraged as flattery (ingratiation) and organizational self-promotion (projecting an image of competence).  Further, we show that open strategy-making contributes to new ventures’ quests for legitimacy (i.e. social acceptance) as they evolve. In the launch phase, dialoguing with blog audiences helps a venture attract endorsements for its organization and products. As the venture grows, concentrating on broadcasting relevant strategic information may attract media audiences’ additional support for pursuing openness as a desirable organizational practice.


Further information 

The University of Innsbruck published a news article on their website (in German). For further information on open strategy, check out the open strategy network.

Marietta Blau Scholarship, EGOS, etc.

A dissertation takes time. I am currently a DOC-team fellow of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. Since I need more time shed light on specific aspects of my research, I applied for a Marietta Blau Grant. I am delighted to announce that I will receive the scholarship from beginning of April to End of December 2016. From April to August I will do my research at the University of Alberta (Edmonton). At UofA I will continue the work with my second supervisor, Michael Lounsbury. From September to December I have the opportunity to learn from Candace Jones at the University of Edinburgh. In January and February 2017 I will continue my DOC-team scholarship at JKU and finalize my dissertation. Note that the JKU featured my accomplishment in the Campus News online.

My supervisor, Robert Bauer and I were very productive. We successfully submitted a paper to the EGOS Conference in Neapel on crowdsourcing (Sub-theme 13: (SWG) Collective Powers for Renewal in Creative Industries). Another piece on crowdsourcing will be published in a book, edited by Brigitte Aulenbacher (JKU Linz), Maria Dammayr (JKU Linz), Klaus Dörre (FSU Jena), Wolfgang Menz (ISF München), Birgit Riegraf (Universität Paderborn), and Harald Wolf (SOFI Göttingen).

We, the DOC-team 67 (Maria Dammayr, Doris Graß and I), presented our interdisciplinary research results at the governance workshop in Linz last November. This presentation was the basis for our final project report for the Austrian Academy of Sciences. We plan to turn this report into a publication together with our supervisors (Brigitte Aulenbacher, Robert Bauer and Herbert Altrichter).

The application „Look at Linz“ is a success story. “Look at Linz” is also featured in two projects where I am involved. Stefan Etzelstorfer, Dennis Hilgers and I wrote a chapter for the book Open Tourism: Open Innovation, Crowdsourcing and Co-Creation Challenging the Tourism Industry. A previous version of our chapter can be downloaded here. The other project is lead by Lisa Schmidthuber (co-authored by Stefan Etzelstorfer, Dennis Hilgers and I). The paper with the title “Local open government: Determinants of online citizen participation“ was accepted for this year’s Academy of Management Meeting.

Academy of Management Meeting – Best Paper Proceedings

In this summer term, I was visiting researcher at FU Berlin (invited by Prof. Leonhard Dobusch). We further developed our paper on how young firms engage in open strategy-making on blogs. Our submission to the Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management was selected for the AOM Best Paper Proceedings. (The AOM Best Paper proceedings contains a selection of approximately best 10 % of all paper submissions; roughly 3000+ papers are accepted to the conference).

I will present the paper at the “Open Strategy” Session (Program Session: 1787) next week in the AOM Meeting in Vancouver from 7th to 11th August. Together with Maria Paola Ometto (University of Alberta) and Johanna Winter (WU Vienna), I have another paper at the conference, which is part of the OMT session on “Disruptive Dynamics of Institutional Complexity” (Program Session: 1492) .

The journal Organization will soon publish the final version of our crowdsourcing paper. My supervisor Robert Bauer and I are very grateful for the constructive and challenging review process that greatly improved our paper. You can download a final version here.

I contributed to organizing this year’s Austrian Early Scholars Workshop in May. This workshop contributes to the internationalization efforts of JKU management research. Without the generous support of the Upper Austrian provincial government (Landesrätin Doris Hummer) it would not have been possible to organize this workshop. We are in the process of organizing the next workshop, more information will follow within the next months.

The Third Austrian Early Scholars Workshop in Management

I am currently supporting the organization of the Third Austrian Early Scholars Workshop in Management (7th – 8th May, JKU Linz). This workshop is an opportunity for advanced PhD students and academics in early career stages to present their research and discuss it with colleagues and professors from international and Austrian universities. In addition to facilitating intellectual exchange, this program supports the development of a global network of young graduates interested in management and organization studies from an institu­tional, organizational and behavioral per­spec­tive.

Continue reading “The Third Austrian Early Scholars Workshop in Management”

Crowdsourcing: Global Search and the Twisted Roles of Consumers and Producers

Robert Bauer and I wrote an article on crowdsourcing (Crowdsourcing: Global Search and the Twisted Roles of Consumers and Producers), which is forthcoming in Organization — Special Issue: Organizations and their Consumers edited by Yiannis Gabriel, Marek Korczynski and Kerstin Rieder.

This paper grew out of a dialogue that started two years ago. The starting point was the interest how crowdsourcing could contribute to innovative efforts of the firm. Without any doubt, a growing number of articles from various disciplines dedicate their attention to crowdsourcing. Robert Bauer and I share the fascination – for this very reason we seek to further stimulate the debate not only on how crowdsourcing creates value, but also about the societal consequences, and thus, the sustainability of crowdsourcing.

You can download the last version of our article here.

DOC-Team 67 erhält Leistungsprämie des Landes OÖ

Das DOC-Team 67 (Maria Dammayr, Doris Graß und Thomas Gegenhuber) hat eine Leistungsprämie des Land OÖ (5000 €) für interdisziplinäre Forschung erhalten. Wir fühlen uns sehr geehrt, dass uns der hochkarätig besetzte Beirat die Leistungsprämie zuerkannt hat. Wir bedanken uns beim Land OÖ für diese Unterstützung unserer Forschung.

Diese Prämie wurde im Rahmen des Programms zur Förderung von “Forschung, Lehre und Internationalisierung” (FLI) an der Johannes Kepler Universität Linz verliehen. Dieses Programm ist eine Initiative von Landesrätin Mag.a Doris Hummer unter Mitwirkung der JKU zur Förderung und stärkeren Sichtbarmachung der Leistungen in Forschung und Lehre an der JKU und wird aus Mitteln des Landes Oberösterreich finanziert.

Our DOC-team was awarded 5000 Euro by the Upper Austrian Provincial Government for our achievements in interdisciplinary research.