speaking of music...
Via OrgTheory's Brayen, a great article by sociologist Jenn Lena on how people create music genres.
The paper, coauthored with Richard Peterson, is about how people create new music genres, a process generalizable to the construction of symbolic classification systems. Given the recent interest in the linking of organizations to identities, categories, and audiences, the paper has clear implications for a number of research areas.
One area that could benefit from the insights of this paper is the crowd who studies organizational form creation and categorical emergence. While much of the ecology-based research is focused primarily on the structural dynamics that enable the creation of new identities, etc. (and I heard a really interesting talk about this very topic by Elizabeth Pontikes yesterday), Lena and Peterson are more interested in ground-level behavior resembling collective action.* They create a typology of different genre forms: Avant-garde, Scene-based, Industry-based, and Traditionalist. Each form is associated with a different kind of collective action taken by people promoting their musical vision and involves the creation and maintenance of boundaries that allow the members to distinguish between genres.
For example, the Avant-garde genre is typified by “members’ shared dislike of some aspect of the music of the day and the quest for music that is different” (701). Because Avant-garde musicians are so concerned with being different, they often experiment with new approaches, and meld together existing genres. Avant-garde musicians haven’t yet developed clear standards of what it means to be part of a new genre; they’re much better at pointing out what they don’t like than what they do (e.g. early punk like Iggy Pop). A genre that matures to the point where a loyal local audience develops may become scene-based. Scenes involve more intense interaction among participants and audience members, and through this interaction quality standards emerge. What distinguishes scenes from the Avant-garde is, in fact, constant communication that allows information about musicians to diffuse rapidly between members of the community (e.g., the Seattle grunge scene). This communication assists in the rapid codification of “conventions of performance and presentation” (704). The other two genre forms are the most commonly recognized kinds of music in pop culture. Industry-based genres are primarily based around the corporation and its ability to disseminate music to a broad market. Traditionalist genres are forms of music that have been preserved and continually cultivated by fans loyal to a particular musical heritage (e.g., roots music).
I have been learning lots of new org theory, but have been failing to blog about it. More later about boundary work and stratification.