Making space for emotions: Empathy, contagion, and legitimacy’s double-edged sword
Publication typeFT ranked journal article
Publication Begin page42
Publication End page63
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AbstractLegitimacy is critical to the formation and expansion of nascent fields because it lends credibility and recognizability to once overlooked actors and practices. At the same time, legitimacy can be a double-edged sword precisely because it facilitates field growth, attracting actors with discrepant practices that may lead to factionalization and undermine the coherence of the field’s collective identity. In this paper, we investigate how organizations can mitigate the downside of legitimation by eliciting emotions that align increasingly discrepant actors and celebrate an inclusive collective identity. We leverage fieldwork and computational text analysis to examine the relationship between legitimation, collective identity coherence, and emotions in the context of the Makers, a nascent field of do-it-yourself hobbyists and technology hackers. In our quantitative analysis we show that legitimation was associated with increased field heterogeneity, but that collective events countered the diluting effects of legitimation. In the qualitative analysis of our interview data we demonstrate that activities at these events—demonstrations and hands-on experiences—elicited emotional contagion and empathy among actors. These emotions reconciled tensions among increasingly heterogeneous actors and bolstered the coherence of the Maker collective identity. We conclude by discussing our contribution to research on legitimacy, collective identity, and field-configuring events.
KeywordLegitimacy, Collective Identity, Emotional Contagion, Field-configuring Events, Empathy, Natural Language Processing, Mixed Methods, Organizational Culture, Emotions, Groups and Teams