CALL FOR PAPERS: SPECIAL ISSUE OF ORGANIZATION
Online Identities: the struggle for the digital self in and around organizations
Marcos Barros, Grenoble École de Management, France
Rafael Alcadipani, FGV-EAESP, Brazil
Christine Coupland, Loughborough University, United Kingdom
Andrew D. Brown, University of Bath, United Kingdom
This Special Issue aims to spark discussion on the impact of new technologies on the online 'management of the self' in and around organizations. Digital technologies and social media are ubiquitous in the contemporary organizational landscape creating new challenges to how people and organizations create, regulate and resist identities in this "brave new world". At least since Donna Haraway's Cyborg Manifesto (1985), scholars of many social disciplines have been interested in the impact of virtual and social technologies on individual identities.
"Digital technologies" is a growing topic of interest also in organization studies (Leonardi and Vaast, 2017), and to critical researchers in particular (Knights et al., 2007; see the upcoming special issue of Organization on "dark digitalization" to appear in 2021). Researchers have gone beyond initial praise for the emancipatory potential of virtual tools to examine actual practices of politics (Upchurch and Grassman, 2016; Husted and Plesner, 2017), resistance (Ossewaarde and Reijers, 2017; Kostakis, 2018; Munro, 2016), and emancipation (Martinez Dy et al., 2018) prompted by the online world.
However, the scholarly conversation on how online technologies create and regulate identities and how individuals and collectives resist them is only starting. The rich tradition of critical identity studies (Alvesson et al., 2008; Brown, 2015, 2020) which focuses on the micro-politics of identity (Watson, 2008; Zanoni et al., 2017), identity resistance (Lutgen-Sandvik, 2008; Barry et al., 2006), regulation (Kärreman and Alvesson, 2004; McDonald et al., 2008), and precarity (Collinson, 2003; Thomas and Linstead, 2002; Coupland and Spedale, 2020) – based on the works of Foucault, Butler and Lacan, among others – has still not explored the role of new online spaces in these processes (Barros, 2018). As yet, our field lacks a thorough exploration of the key role of corporations in managing online identities and of the ways individuals and collectives may create alternative virtual selves in and around organizations.
Scholars interested in online technologies have long examined identity issues. Initially, Haraway (1991) and Turkle (1995) argued that hybridization between humans and machines would enable individuals to engage in disembodiment (Slater, 2002) and decontextualization (Boyd, 2010) processes that open-up space for identity play (Turkle, 1999). In this performance, individuals now unbounded by place and body will be able to explore alternative identities. Digital affordances, such as interactivity, anonymity, visibility, persistence (Leonardi and Vaast, 2017), and more recently multimodality (Stöckl, 2004), will, it is argued, allow for new experiences of the self (Plant, 1995). The easier access to and creation of emerging online communities may also help develop collective identities that support individuals' self-expression (Fox and Ralston, 2016) and facilitate special interest groups' political mobilization (Wall, 2007; Ackland and O'Neil, 2011) as in the case of Black Lives Matter and MeToo movements.
The initial emphasis on identity 'freedom' offered by the internet has, over time, made place for a greater focus on identity regulation (Poletti and Rak, 2014). This shift has been driven by the growing colonization of the online space by corporations and platforms exploring the economic benefits of the commercialization of user data. In these novel 'circuits of communicative capitalism' (Dean, 2009), online political subjects 'slacktivism' is commodified and monetized. New identity tools, designs, and underlying algorithms (Cover, 2014) reinforce the value of the data profiles collected and sold by organizations, which depend on authenticity' of self-representation (Haimson and Hoffmann, 2016). In this new world, public institutions and organizations also often exploit this wealth of available data to surveil, evaluate and control the online identities of employees and other stakeholders (Martínez-Béjar and Brändle, 2018). Digital cultures, heralded as spaces of belonging and self-expression, have been used and appropriated by corporations, extending their control to private spheres (Reed, 2018). And, despite the original neutral discourse of 'play', these increasingly corporatized online arenas may still resort to the 'default subject position' to the exclusion of gendered and racialized expressions, which are frequently reduced to stereotypical images (Sundén and Sveningsson, 2012; Wajcman, 2010). Relatedly, different contexts and regions constrain in different ways how digital technologies can be deployed by individuals to perform online identities (Miller et al., 2016).
This call for papers is an invitation for a critical appraisal of the impact of the evolution of the virtual environment on identity processes. The contemporary relevance of the virtual space for understanding identity construction and the struggles surrounding it has become ever more evident in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, which has triggered the sudden exponential rise in the use of remote technologies that blur the boundaries between life spheres across the globe.
Topics could include, but are not limited to, the following:
We invite contributions that analyze how this new context brings novel opportunities, challenges, and problems for individuals and organizations in terms of the dynamics of identity regulation, control and resistance. Our goal is to encourage cross-fertilization between the fields of online and identity studies, from a critical perspective, in order to understand better the power implications of virtual environments.
Papers may be submitted electronically from 1 April 2021 until the deadline date of 1 May 2021 (final deadline) to SAGETrack at:
Papers should be no more than 10,000 words, excluding references, and will be blind reviewed following the journal's standard review process. Manuscripts should be prepared according to the guidelines published in Organization and on the journal's website:
For further questions about the special issue please use the guest editors' contact email:
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