Institutional analysis in a digital era: Mechanisms and methods to understand emerging fields

In recent years, numerous writers have criticized the current state of institutional theory, and organization theory in general (Davis 2010, 2015; Suddaby, Hardy, and Huy, 2011; Greenwood, Hinings, and Whetten, 2014). We have found these hand-wringing discussions somewhat odd, as they routinely focus on papers written back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, treating them like biblical texts, and then arguing that the old canon is no longer relevant. This form of critique both obscures the context in which the early statements were written and avoids considering how older ideas might be profitably amended for contemporary times. Rather than join this chorus that clamors for more agency, pluralism, ambidexterity, or other forms of complexity, in this chapter we develop new mechanisms in the spirit of the initial ideas about institutional analysis. We think attention to a new set of social processes can prove analytically useful. Put differently, rather than come up with more nouns and labels, we focus on verbs, that is, on the processes and mechanisms that can be used to illuminate moments of organizational change and field transformation.