The Virtual Bookshelf: Collective Action in Organizations

Bruce Bimber, Andrew Flanagin, & Cynthia Stohl, Collective Action in Organizations: Interaction and Engagement in an Era of Technological Change (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012).

VB: Bimber HeadshotChallenging the notion that digital media render traditional, formal organizations irrelevant, Collective Action in Organizations 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.

Peter Monge, of USC’s Annenberg School of Communication and Marshall School of Business, writes that Collective Action in Organizations “combines solid, new theorizing with crisp, well-executed data analysis.” “The results are surprising,” Monge concludes, noting that scholars with various interests “will find Collective Action in Organizations a thought-provoking and idea-generating experience.” The University of Illinois’s Marshall Scott Poole calls the book a “pathbreaking analysis,” and Michael Delli Carpini from Penn’s Annenberg School of Communication labels the book “a major contribution to both our empirical understanding of and our theorizing about civic and political engagement in the new information age.”

VB: Flanagin HeadshotBruce 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 and from many years of observing the interconnections between social and technological innovation. Andrew J. Flanagin is Professor of Communication at the University of California, VB: Stohl HeadshotSanta 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. 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 workplace participation programs, corporate NGO partnerships, activist organizing, and clandestine organizations.