Economic Sociology Seminars
Seminars take place on Wednesdays via Zoom from 4:00-5:30 p.m unless otherwise noted. Please contact Ryan Harrington (firstname.lastname@example.org) for additional details, or to request to be placed on our mailing list.
Brian Rubineau, McGill
Job experience, gender, and the application decision: A within-individual analysis.
Mohammad Fazel Zarandi, MIT Sloan
Carolyn Fu, MIT Sloan
Setting the Stage: The Interplay of Firm Boundary and Learning at the Opera.
Vertical integration has traditionally been understood as having distinct advantages for systemic innovation – enabling firms to experiment with different combinations of resources, so as to achieve valuable innovations in product architecture. However, the possibility for disintegrated markets to also provide such innovations has not been well investigated. In this study, we see that if specialized producers in a disintegrated market are motivated by reputational concerns, they likewise experiment with valuable product architectures they can participate in. The market then offers a multitude of systemic innovations that a given firm can leverage. Furthermore, the availability of these systemic innovations in the market means that greater integration can in fact be detrimental to a firm’s attempts to innovate. This study examines this opportunity and challenge through the surprising disintegration of an opera company, which sought to integrate for the sake of systemic innovation, but ultimately abandoned this in order to leverage the novel product architectures offered by specialized producers in the market. This study utilizes both a qualitative archival analysis and a computational simulation to clarify the benefits that market-level search for systemic innovations can offer, and demonstrate how a firm can in fact undercut this value by attempting to integrate.
Jacqueline Lane, Harvard
Jacob Foster, UCLA
Sophia Fu, Rutgers
Diane Vaughan, Columbia
Institutional Persistence, Change, and Agency: The Case of Air Traffic Control
This study explores how the air traffic control system has persisted over time, maintaining safe operation despite two shocks to the system - Ronald Reagan’s 1981 firing of over 14,000 striking controllers and the September 11th terrorist attacks - and in addition, surviving frequent periods of decline that increase risk. My analytic focus is on system effects: the ongoing relationship between history, institutions, organizations and the social, technological, and material arrangements that constitute air traffic controllers’ everyday work practices. Necessarily, I combine historical ethnography with interviews, archival research, surveys, and field work in four air traffic control facilities in order to capture system dynamics over time. Two examples show how the past materializes in the workplace in the present.
The case demonstrates the complexity of modernizing, and the challenges of keeping up by patching the new onto existing organizations and their technologies. Further, it demonstrates the agency of the workforce in maintaining the viability of the systems that they inhabit. Incrementally, problem-solving people and organizations (management, union) inside the air traffic control system developed strategies of resilience, reliability, and redundancy that provided perennial dynamic flexibility to the parts of the system structure as well as improvising tools of repair to adjust innovations to local conditions, contributing to system persistence.
Elinor Flynn, NYU Stern
Marlon Twyman, USC Annenberg