The Inextricable Intertwining of the Firm, the Platform and the Customer: The Case of a Social Media Platform for Innovation

  • Antonella Martini
  • Silvia Massa
  • Stefania Testa
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Information Systems and Organisation book series (LNISO, volume 11)


The aim of this contribution is to explore the relationship between human actors and technology in the context of a social media platform, developed by a leading Italian firm in the food industry. In order to address these issues, we adopt a theoretical approach that is deeply rooted in Pickering’s “mangle” theory, and Jones’ subsequent metaphor of “double dance of agency”. We developed a longitudinal case study with two rounds of interviews with marketing and R&D managers. The contribution provides three main theoretical contributions. It provides detailed attention to the co-evolution over time of human-material entanglement, an aspect that papers in this area often omit. It provides a clear picture of a series of inter-related emergent phenomena, entangling managers, users, and the social media platform. It introduces further dimensions in the dancing metaphor. On the practical side, the double dance of agency perspective on this platform’s evolution also offers useful insight for practitioners.


Social software Innovation Double dance of agency model Case study 


  1. 1.
    Piller, F.T., Ihl, C., Vossen, A.: A typology of customer co-creation in the innovation process (2010). Available at SSRN: or
  2. 2.
    Prahalad, C.K., Krishnan, M.S.: The new age of innovation: driving co-created value through global networks. McGraw Hill, New York (2008)Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Bughin, J., Hung Byers, A., Chui, M.: How social technologies are extending the organization. McKinsey Q. 1–10 (2011)Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Aula, P.: Social media, reputation risk and ambient publicity management. Strategy Leadersh. 38(6), 43–49 (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Piller, F.T., Vossen, A., Ihl, C.: From social media to social product development: the impact of social media on co-creation of innovation. Die Unternehmung 66(1), 7–27 (2012)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Füller, J., Matzler, K.: Virtual product experience and customer participation: a chance for customer-centred, really new products. Technovation 27, 378–387 (2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Urbick, B.: Innovation through co-creation: consumers can be creative (2012). Accessed 30 March 2012
  8. 8.
    Piller, F.T., Walcher, D.: Toolkit for idea competitions: a novel method to integrate users in new product development. R&D Manag. 36(3), 307–318 (2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Toubia, O.: Idea generation, creativity, and incentives. Working Paper, Columbia Business School, New York (2005)Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Terwiesch, C., Xu, Y.: Innovation contests, open innovation, and multi-agent problem solving. Manag. Sci. 54(9), 1529–1543 (2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Giddens, A.: The constitution of society. Polity, Cambridge (1984)Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Leonardi, P.: When flexible routines meet flexible technologies: affordance, constraint, and the imbrication of human and material agencies. MIS Q. 35(1), 147–167 (2011)Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Pickering, A.: The mangle of practice: agency and emergence in the sociology of science. Am. J. Sociol. 99(3), 559–589 (1993)MathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Pickering, A.: The mangle of practice: time, agency and science. University of Chicago Press (1995)Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Jones, M.: Information systems and the double mangle: steering a course between the Scylla of embedded structure and the Charybdis of material agency. In: Larsen, T., L. Levine, L., DeGross, J. (eds.). Information Systems: current issues and future challenges. Proceedings of the IFIPWG 8.2 & 8.6 Joint Working Conference on Information Systems 1998, Helsinki, pp. 287–302 (1998)Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Engagement DB report. The world’s most valuable brands. who’s most engaged? (2011).
  17. 17.
    Olohan, M.: Translators and translation technology: the dance of agency. Transl. Stud. 4(3), 342–357 (2011)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Jick, T.D.: Mixing qualitative and quantitative methods: triangulation in action. Admin. Sci. Q. 24(4), 602–611 (1979)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Resca, A., Za, S., Spagnoletti, P.: Digital platforms as sources for organizational and strategic transformation: a case study of the Midblue project. J. Theor. Appl. E-Commerce Res. 8(2) (2013)Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Spagnoletti, P., Resca, A.: A design theory for IT supporting online communities. In: Proceedings of the 45th Hawaii international conference on system sciences, pp. 4082–4091 (2012). doi: 10.1109/HICSS.2012.54
  21. 21.
    Yoo, Y., Henfridsson, O., Lyytinen, K.: The new organizing logic of digital innovation: an agenda for information systems research. Inf. Syst. Res. 21(4), 724–735 (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Sahay, S., Robey, D.: Organizational context, social interpretation and the implementation and consequences of geographic information systems. Account. Manag. Inf. Technol. 6(4), 255–282 (1996)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Jeppesen, L.K., Lakhani, K.R.: Marginality and problem solving effectiveness in broadcast search. Organ. Sci. 21(5), 1016–1033 (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Boudreau, K.J., Lakhani, K.R., Lacetera, N.: Incentives and problem uncertainty in innovation contests: an empirical analysis. Manag. Sci. 57(5), 843–863 (2011)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Von Hippel, E., von Krogh, G.: Open source software and the private-collective innovation model: issues for organization science. Organ. Sci. 14(2), 209–223 (2003)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Von Hippel, E., von Krogh, G.: Free revealing and the private-collective model for innovation incentives. R&D Manag. 36(3), 205–306 (2006)Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Harhoff, D., Henkel, J., von Hippel, E.: Profiting from voluntary information spillovers: how users benefit by freely revealing their innovations. Res. Policy 32(10), 1753–1769 (2003)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Scott, S.V., Orlikowski, W.J.: Getting the truth’: exploring the material grounds of institutional dynamics in social media. Working paper series, 177. Information Systems group, London School of Economics and Political Science, London (2009)Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Argyris, C., Schon, D.: Organizational learning. Addison-Wesley, Reading (1978)Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Hanna, R., Rohm, A., Crittenden, V.L.: We’re all connected: the power of the social media ecosystem. Bus. Horiz. 54(3), 265–273 (2011)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Glaser, B., Strauss, A.: The discovery of grounded theory. Weidenfield and Nicolson, London (1967)Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Strauss, A., Corbin, J.M.: Basics of qualitative research: grounded theory procedures and techniques. Sage Publications, Inc. (1990)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Antonella Martini
    • 1
  • Silvia Massa
    • 2
  • Stefania Testa
    • 2
  1. 1.DESTEC, Università di PisaPisaItaly
  2. 2.DIME, Università degli Studi di GenovaGenovaItaly

Personalised recommendations