New media and strategy research: towards a relational agency approach

Ib Tunby Gulbrandsen, Ursula Plesner, Elena Raviola

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Strategy scholars generally agree that new media make a difference for how strategy is conceived and executed. A rapidly growing body of literature focuses on the relationship between new media and strategy, and sometimes offers recommendations regarding appropriate strategic actions in relation to new media. This article systematically reviews 132 articles with a focus on the diagnoses they offer and the directions they give strategists regarding the role of new media in strategy. These diagnoses and directions rely on and contribute to different conceptualizations of new media. The article identifies four main ways of conceptualizing new media in the literature: as elements in an increasingly turbulent strategic environment, as changing the role of strategists, as tools for strategically engaging stakeholders, and as both increasing and decreasing the control necessary for strategy making. These conceptualizations are based on often-implicit assumptions about ‘agency’ in strategy: new media are seen either as forces influencing strategy or as tools in the hands of humans, who are portrayed as the agents of strategy. In both cases, new media are black-boxed, such that their specific properties and ways of becoming embedded in particular contexts are rarely examined. After discussing these assumptions and a limited number of studies that challenge them, the article develops an approach to strategy and new media based on a relational understanding of agency, an attention to technological affordances, and a methodological approach assuming that new media and strategy are assemblages of human and non-human elements. We argue that future research building on a theoretical framework integrating agency, affordances and assemblages will advance our knowledge of strategy-making in ways that do not take new media for granted, and ways that are attentive to different kinds of agency.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Management Reviews
Volume22
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)33-52
ISSN1460-8545
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jan 2020

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