Discursive Fields and the Diversity-Coherence Paradox: An Ecological Perspective on the Blockchain Community Discourse

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Publication History

Received: October 2, 2018
Revised: March 11, 2019; December 30, 2019; August 24, 2020; June 30, 2021; August 29, 2021; October 4, 2021
Accepted: October 7, 2021
Published Online as Articles in Advance: August 26, 2022
Published in Issue: September 1, 2022


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Innovation breakthroughs prompt sensemaking discourses that promote community learning and socially construct the innovation. Through this discourse, interested actors advance diverse frames, appealing to consumers with disparate preferences but raising concerns for the coherence of that discourse. We unpack this diversity-coherence paradox by recasting coherence as the relatedness of innovation frames and spotlighting the role of discursive fields that circumscribe meaning. Our empirical context is the first six years of blockchain discourse across seven discursive fields. Our research offers three insights in furtherance of an ecological perspective on innovation discourse. First, framing diversity emanates from discursive fields rather than from actors. Second, fields play differentiated roles in the framing process. Enactment fields comprised of actors with direct experience with the technology limit diversity. They do so by erecting walls that circumscribe discourse through imprinting on their original frame and retracting from or abandoning frames learned from other fields. In contrast, mediated fields, in which actors lack direct experience with the technology, enhance diversity. They do so by imitating or learning from other fields and foreshadowing or anticipating the frames used by other fields, thereby building bridges. Third, rather than opposing each other, diversity and coherence coevolve as the diversity induced by mediated fields increases framing redundancies, synthesizing frames into a coherent community understanding of the innovation. Our research signals to the actors who serve as innovation ambassadors and gatekeepers that diverse views of an innovation are not only inevitable, given the many discourse fields in which those views are formulated, but can also be coherent and desirable.

Additional Details
Author Shaila M. Miranda, Dawei (David) Wang, and Chuan (Annie) Tian
Year 2022
Volume 46
Issue 3
Keywords Framing, diversity, coherence, discursive field, innovation, diffusion, blockchain
Page Numbers 1421-1452
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