Player or Platform? How Rhetorical Figures Affect the Attribution of Collective Actorhood to New Forms of Organizing

Alexander Buhmann, Kateryna Maltseva, Dennis Schoeneborn, Patrick Haack

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperResearchpeer-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 three empirical studies to show how metaphors (such as platform, app, player, technology, etc.) used in organizational portrayals affect cognitive attributions of collective actorhood to organizational entities. We embed our study in the context of new organizational forms (such as 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 cognitive 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, etc.).
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2021
Number of pages45
Publication statusPublished - 2021
EventThe 71st Annual International Communication Association Conference. ICA 2021 - Virtual Conference, WWW
Duration: 27 May 202131 May 2021
Conference number: 71


ConferenceThe 71st Annual International Communication Association Conference. ICA 2021
LocationVirtual Conference


  • Organizational portrayals
  • New forms of organizing
  • Metaphors
  • Communicative institutionalism
  • Anthropomorphization
  • Organizational actorhood
  • Experiments

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