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Exploring Complex Organizational Communities: Identity as Emergent Perceptions, Boundaries, and Relationships


Corresponding author: Dawn R. Gilpin; e-mail:


Scholars in the fields of organization science and communication have shown increasing interest in exploring theories of complexity as a framework for theorizing about organizational processes. We conceive of organizations as heterogeneous complex systems characterized by interdependency and member identification, which self-organize into a relatively stable core and fluid, ill-defined boundaries. This conceptualization also necessitates rethinking our understanding of organizational identity construction, since many predominant theories of organizational identity suffer from managerial bias (Scott, 2007). We thus propose that identity is an emergent property of self-organization in complex organizational communities. From a complexity theory perspective, organizational identity can be viewed as a dynamic, emergent, multilevel process of negotiation that encompasses reflexivity, boundary setting, and relationship building.

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