Autumn Quarter 2009

December 7

Wendy Espeland, Associate Professor, Northwestern University with Michael Sauder, University of Iowa (Under contract to the Russell Sage Foundation)

Fear of Falling: The Influence of Media Rankings on Legal Education in America

Time and Location: Joint STS seminar, Scancor, Room 527, CERAS, 3:00 pm

For many law school deans, March is the cruelest month. Every March, U.S.News and World Reports, formerly a weekly, now biweekly, news magazine, releases its annual rankings of American law schools. Law school rankings are objects of intense scrutiny and consternation. One reporter described their publication as “…the legal profession’s version of March madness” (Parloff 1998). After U.S.News [hereafter USN] published its first ranking issue in 1990, Guido Calabresi, dean of Yale Law School (ranked first) called them “an idiot poll;” Harvard’s Dean Robert Clark (ranked fifth) pronounced them “Mickey Mouse,” “just plain wacky,” and “totally bonkers” (cited in Parloff 1998; Webster 1992a.) Eight years later, Carl Monk, executive director of the Association of American Law Schools [AALS], the main professional organization for law schools, called them “dangerous and misleading”(Cotts 1998, A13). Since then, rankings have been denounced by virtually every professional association of legal educators and administrators, including the American Bar Association, Law School Admissions Council, Society of American Law School Teachers, and National Association of Law Placement. In 2007, the AALS hosted a daylong workshop at its annual meeting dedicated to "confront[ing] the #@%$&**@ U. S. News and World Report rankings system."[1] Why have USN rankings generated such sustained fuss among law schools? Why do some deans claim rankings have “changed everything” about legal education? And why should we care? 

November 30

Jeannette Colyvas, Assistant Professor of Org. Learning and Human Development, Northwestern University

Academic Laboratories and the Reproduction of Proprietary Science: Modeling Organizational Rules through Autocatalytic Networks

We examine the emergence of proprietary science in the academy, specifically as a set of rules that came to define how university research findings should be commercialized. Drawing on detailed archives of life scientists’ early invention disclosures we demonstrate how patenting practices originated in labs, rather than legal definitions or policy incentives, and developed in a manner that cannot be separated from the actual production of science. Our investigation also suggests several mechanisms that contribute to the emergence of proprietary science: 1.) a population-level mode of learning through natural selection and lab replication, reflecting how scientific labs produce both knowledge and scientists; 2.) a lab-level, experiential form of adaptation through participation in a chain of knowledge production; and 3.) a lab-level preemptive form of adaptation through anticipation of others' actions. We operationalize these insights into a computational, agent-based model that demonstrates how an institutional regime conducive to patenting can develop and persist without top-down coordination or centralized control. Moreover, experimentation with the model suggests that emergence of such a regime is more likely to occur when lab replication is coupled with a preemptive, forward-looking lab adaptation mechanism, than when it coincides with a participatory, backward-looking form of lab adaptation.  

November 16

Mitchell L Stevens, Associate Professor, Stanford University Michael Sauder, Assistant Professor, University of Iowa Arik Lifschitz, Assistant Professor, University of Minnesota

Football: Field Formation and Status Production in U.S. Higher Education

How should we explain the origin and enduring popularity of intercollegiate football? While previous accounts emphasize the manifest functions of the game (development of character and spirit, financial benefits, and increased visibility), we theorize that a latent function of intercollegiate football provides a more convincing explanation: intercollegiate football is a status system, institutionalized through conference associations and processes of social closure. We develop this idea by tracing the historical development of college football. Drawing on a data set constructed from conference affiliations over time, university characteristics, and reputational measures, we provide evidence of processes we would expect to see if our theory were true: status clustering and status hoarding through conference affiliation. Overall our work suggests that organizational status can be defined by several sets of evaluative criteria simultaneously. 

November 9

Neil Gross, Associate Professor of Sociology,University of British Columbia with Ethan Fosse, Graduate Student in Sociology, Harvard University

Why Are Professors Liberal?

November 28

Jan Löwstedt , Professor of Business Administration, Stockholm University

Knowledge production in management research: a messy practice

There has been an impressive development in the range of issues managers deal with and the knowledge needed by managers over the past 50 years. Organizations have become larger in size, much more complex in their structures and affairs, and more far-reaching in time and space. This widening of scope has been accompanied by a more specialized and deeper knowledge base. Many companies of our times can be described as knowledge-intensive firms acting in an era of globalization. Some management researchers have suggested that this development is occurring less in the character of the today’s organizations, and more in the perspectives taken in our attempts to analyse and understand the modern organization. Management ideas also tend to infuse many other aspects of modern society, such as schools, health care, art and religion, to mention only a few. Charles Perrow (1972) has described this tendency as the emerging organization society.  

October 25

Amy J. Binder, Associate Professor, University of California San Diego, (co-author Kate Wood, University of California San Diego)

“Civil” or “Provocative”? Varieties of Conservative Student Style and Discourse in American Universities

College plays a critical role in establishing and maintaining both the worldviews and public performances of political actors. But while scholars know a good deal about progressive politics on campus, they know considerably less about college student conservatism. This paper compares the political styles of conservative students in two university systems—Eastern Elite University and Western Public University—and finds them to be markedly different.We locate the experiences of politically active college students in a number of nested organizational structures, each of which provides additional layers of meaning to students’ unfolding political ideologies. We find that students are active agents in their cultivation of political styles, but that they are also enabled and constrained in their individual proclivities by the organizational resources and schemas differentially available to them on their campuses. We argue that styles of campus conservatism are much less the result of “natural inclinations” that students simply bring with them to campus—a simple mirror of students’ social class origins or early political beliefs. Rather, we argue that these dispositions are developed on campus—they are organizational products, built up through multiple networks of shared culture. Marshaling rich data from these campuses, we extend theory on institutional scripts, cultural capital, the reproduction of elite status in higher education, group styles, and the origins of political discourse. 

October 19

Indre Maurer, Assistant Professor, University of Cologne

Organizational Antecedents of Tie Formation, Knowledge Transfer and Innovation

Tie strength ranges among the most important network characteristics when explaining inter-organizational knowledge transfer and innovation. This paper identifies organizational conditions that impact the formation of strong inter-organizational ties, knowledge transfer and innovation. An empirical study of 218 engineering projects reveals (1) that, in fact, strong inter-organizational ties facilitate the transfer of external knowledge leading to product innovation and (2) that certain elements of the organization’s structure (decentralization of authority) and HR practices (stable pool of project team members) promote the formation of strong inter-organizational ties. In sum, the study highlights the importance of organization level attributes for the explanation of inter-organization level effects. 

October 12

Stephan Jooste, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University and Dick Scott, Professor of Sociology, Emeritus, Stanford University

Organizations that enable and govern Public Private Partnerships: An Organizational Field Approach

The use of Public Private partnerships (PPPS) for infrastructure development is now a major part of the global solution to infrastructure development. However, ensuring these projects deliver on the promise of benefits that accrue from combining private initiative and public oversight has been particularly challenging. We argue that a variety of both public and provate organizations have emerged and are being used in varying combinations in efforts to ensure the successful development and operation of PPPs. This paper employs the concept of the organization field to illustrate various constellations and organizations that initiate, develop, and govern infrastructure PPPs. We begin by describing the challenges confronting PPP governance and the need for networks of organizations, and then add the concept of organizational fields as a theoretical lens that helps us to understand the various forces that shape and surround these networks. After reviewing a small number of examples of specific national/provincial fields, we identify several dimensions affecting the field-level characteristics that distinguish different countries. 

October 5

Juha Mattsson, Postdoctoral Fellow, Stanford University and Helsinki University of Technology

Specialize? Diversify? Or Both? - Multidimensional Scope and Organizational Survival

In this paper, we investigate how organizations’ scope affects their competitive viability. While existing research finds inconsistent results for the diversification and performance link, we base our conceptualization on the premise that organizational environments, selection mechanisms, and organizational fit are important determinants in the way scope affects competitive outcomes. Importantly, organizations and environments have multiple core dimensions, such as product markets and technology, along which an organization may adopt different scope strategies simultaneously. We argue that in certain settings, competitive viability may actually be optimal for those organizations that are relatively diverse in one dimension but approach specialism in another. Taking an evolutionary approach, we formulate hypotheses on the effects of market and technology scope on organizational survival in emerging, technology-based industries. Our analysis of the modern biotechnology industry in Finland in 1978-2006 supports the hypotheses and thus backs up our conceptualization of the scope-survival link – possibly generalizable to other contexts and organizational dimensions. 

September 28

Peer Hull Kristensen, Professor, International Center for Business and Politics, Copenhagen Business School

Peer Hull Kristensen, Professor, International Center for Business and Politics, Copenhagen Business School

Deriving the Core Lesson from the Nordic Welfare states

While the emergence of the new economy – the global, networked, projective economy – has been problematic for a number of countries belonging both to the liberal market economies/welfare states and to coordinated market economies/conservative welfare states, its merger with the Nordic welfare states/coordinated market economies has been surprisingly successful – at least for a period.