Organizational Boundaries in Fluid Forms of Production: The Case of Apache Open Source Software

Vitaliano Barberio, Markus A. Höllerer, Renate Meyer, Dennis Jancsary

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapterResearchpeer-review


This chapter explores the multiplicity, formation, and porosity of organizational boundaries in new, fluid forms of production. Conceptualizing them as “partial organizations,” we argue that both the intentional design of organizational elements (such as membership, hierarchy, rules, monitoring, and sanctioning) as well as unintended adjustments of “unorganized” aspects drive boundary formation and impact boundary porosity. In addition, we contend that structuring dynamics will create specific trajectories for boundaries over time. Empirically, we further our theoretical framework on the basis of an in-depth case study of the Apache open-source software community during its formative years (1995–2002). We find that both the salience and formalization of boundaries increase over time. However, different conceptions of boundaries (such as efficiency, competence, power, and identity) become salient at different points in time. While design and adjustment drive boundary formation with regard to all boundary conceptions in our empirical case, porosity develops differently for each of them. We also demonstrate that the formalization of boundaries does not necessarily reduce boundary porosity, but actually may increase it.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTowards Permeable Boundaries of Organizations?
EditorsLeopold Ringel, Petra Hiller, Charlene Zietsma
Number of pages30
Place of PublicationBingley
PublisherEmerald Group Publishing
Publication date2018
ISBN (Print)9781787438293
ISBN (Electronic)9781787438286, 9781787439917
Publication statusPublished - 2018
SeriesResearch in the Sociology of Organizations


  • Organizational boundaries
  • Partial organization
  • Fluid forms of production
  • Community-managed production
  • Open-source software

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