all that jazz

All journals should follow the practice of Organization Science by posting forthcoming articles online prior to the publication date.  The practice gets fresh content to readers sooner and enhances the spread of knowledge. The April 27 slate includes an interesting slate of advance articles, including the Felin & Foss critique of theories about self-fulfilling prophecy and a comment by Fabrizio Ferraro, Jeff Pfeffer, and Bob Sutton. The blog will host more of that content in the coming weeks when Fabrizio graciously makes a guest appearance on orgtheory. I look forward to hearing him and Teppo duke it out cordially discuss their different points of view. But if you can’t wait, you can check out the exchange in Org. Sci now.

The slate also includes a really cool study by my neighbors to the south, Damon Phillips and Young-Kyu Kim, that looks at the practice of using pseudonyms to mask the identities of jazz musicians during the 1920s. Jazz record companies that catered to highbrow musical tastes, the cultural elite, and Victorian values wanted to take advantage of the potential sales revenue that would come from signing lowbrow jazz artists, but they didn’t want to consequently threaten their own producer identity. The solution was to sign the lowbrow jazz musicians anyway and give them a pseudonym that enhanced their legitimacy.  So for example, Louis Armstrong and His Savoy Ballroom Five was released under the pseudonym Eddie Gordon’s Band. They find that firms founded during the Victorian Era were more likely to use pseudonyms, suggesting that these firms were attempting to preserve their identity as highbrow producers through this deceptive practice. They also find further evidence that this deception was strategic. They summarize:

Our findings suggest that acts of deception can be used to preserve a firm’s identity. In our study, Victorian Era firms shunned the direct financial gains of fully participating in the lowbrow product space to preserve their higher-status identities, forged at founding. Instead of employing identity-transforming or identity-enhancing acts (Rao et al. 2003), we uncover deception through the use of pseudonyms as identity-preserving acts. Pseudonyms allowed the Victorian Era firms to participate more fully in the center of the jazz market while preserving their identities as highbrow producers. These deceptive acts also allowed Victorian Era firms to more sharply signal their identity when the actions of competing Jazz Era firms made it less clear that Victorian Era firms were distinctly associated with highbrow music (14).

The paper uses incredible data. It’s also nice to see a paper that treats identity at the organization-level in a sophisticated way, showing how firms actively and symbolically manage their audiences.

Written by brayden king

April 29, 2009 at 3:48 pm

Posted in brayden, research

2 Responses

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  1. Well, “duke it out” is not the right way to characterize this (unless there’s an ASA cage match planned that I’m not aware of) —- we’ll just continue having a cordial discussion on these issues. Fabrizio makes a very compelling (and consistent) case, and we come at the issues from the opposite side. It’ll be great to have Fabrizio here at orgtheory.



    April 29, 2009 at 4:03 pm

  2. Gender & Society also posts forthcoming articles. I love it.



    April 30, 2009 at 4:56 pm

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