Player or Platform? How Metaphors Affect the Attribution of Actorhood to New Forms of Organizing

Alexander Buhmann, Kateryna Maltseva, Dennis Schoeneborn, Patrick Haack

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference abstract in proceedingsResearchpeer-review


As discussed in the literature on organizational actorhood, organizations either tend to pronounce or downplay their status as collective actors. While prior work has primarily focused on actorhood attributions on the level of public communication, we study the causal interplay between public communication and individual perceptions of organizational actorhood. For this purpose, we conduced four empirical studies to show how anthropomorphic metaphors (e.g., player or participant) and non-anthropomorphic metaphors (such as platform or app) used in organizational portrayals affect cognitive attributions of collective actorhood to organizational entities. We embed our study in the context of new organizational forms (e.g., digital platform organizations) because here the question of organizational actorhood and responsibility is particularly salient. We show that the use of anthropomorphic metaphors in organizational portrayals lead to higher levels of individuals’ attributions of collective actorhood to organizations. Such higher levels of organizational actorhood attribution occur, as we demonstrate, due to anthropomorphic metaphors directing individuals’ attention to the organization as a collective entity rather than to its constitutive parts (e.g., members, products).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the Eighty-first Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management
EditorsSonia Taneja
Number of pages1
Place of PublicationBriarcliff Manor, NY
PublisherAcademy of Management
Publication date2021
Publication statusPublished - 2021
EventThe Academy of Management Annual Meeting 2021: Bringing the Manager Back in Management - Online, Virtual, Online
Duration: 29 Jul 20214 Aug 2021
Conference number: 81


ConferenceThe Academy of Management Annual Meeting 2021
CityVirtual, Online
Internet address
SeriesAcademy of Management Proceedings

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