Making space for garbage cans: how emergent groups organize social media spaces to orchestrate widescale helping in a crisis

Gary T. Burke, Omid Omidvar, Agnessa Spanellis, Igor Pyrko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (SciVal)

Abstract

During the Covid-19 pandemic, citizens self-organized at an unprecedented scale to support vulnerable people in neighbourhoods, towns and cities. Drawing on an in-depth study of an online volunteering group that emerged at the beginning of the pandemic and helped thousands of people in a city in the United Kingdom, we unpack how citizens co-construct social media spaces to orchestrate helping activity during a crisis. Conceptualizing a novel synthesis of classical garbage can theory and virtual space, we reveal how emergent groups use ?spatial partitioning? and ?spatial mapping? to create a multi-layered spatial architecture that distributes decision-making and invites impromptu choice occasions: spontaneous matchmaking, proximal chance connects and speculative attraction. Our insights extend the study of emergent organizing and decision-making in crises. Furthermore, we advance a new line of theorizing which exploits garbage can theory, beyond its existing application in classical decision sciences, to posit a spatial view of organizing that paves the way for its novel applications in organization studies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)569-592
Number of pages24
JournalOrganization Studies
Volume44
Issue number4
Early online date26 May 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 30 Apr 2023
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding: The author(s) received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

Keywords

  • crisis
  • emergent group
  • garbage can
  • partial organization
  • social media
  • spatiality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Management of Technology and Innovation
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Strategy and Management

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