Organizing Spaces: Meeting Arenas as a Social Movement Infrastructure between Organization, Network, and Institution

Since I encouraged everyone to share their publications here, I guess I should make a start…

So here is an article about how meetings constitute an infrastructure for social movements. It talks about social movements but I suppose it also applies to other kinds of inter-organizational networks. In a way, the article is also about the idea of “partial organization” (a concept introduced by Nils Brunsson and Göran Ahrne). In other words, meetings can be understood as partially organized in the sense that parts of them are based on decisions and other parts are the way they are for other reasons, such as “that’s how we’ve always done it”. The interesting thing about the decided (i.e. organized) elements of a nmeeting is that they can easily be changed (because decisions can be changed).

Feel free to comment or ask questions below.

Here is the full reference:

Haug, Christoph (2013): Organizing spaces: Meeting arenas as a social movement infrastructure between organization, network, and institution. In: Organization Studies, Vol. 34, No. 5-6. pp. 705–732. DOI: 10.1177/0170840613479232

The actual article is unfortunately behind a pay-wall, but the manuscript is freely accessible here.

And here is the abstract:

In recent years, social movement scholars have shown increasing interest in the internal lives of social movements, but this turn from “social movements as actors” to “social movements as spaces” has not yet led to a conceptual apparatus that addresses the key role of face-to-face meetings, especially in the inter-organizational domain of mesomobilization. Building on the concept of “partial organization”, the paper develops the concept of “meeting arena” as a hybrid of three forms of social order: organization, institution, and network. It is argued that the complex figuration of meeting arenas in a social movement or protest mobilization constitutes an infrastructure that synchronizes the dispersed activities of movement actors in time and space. This infrastructure is not an entirely emergent phenomenon but is also the result of conscious decisions by organizers. Heuristic, methodological, and theoretical implications of this novel perspective on social movements are discussed, highlighting especially the potential of the distinction between organizing and mobilizing as two intertwined but essentially different types of social movement activity.

free spaces, meetings, mesomobilization, network, organizing, social movements, communication as constitutive of organization (CCO)


Dear Christoph, Your article helped me process my histories of activism and its twists, turns, surprises, etc. The questions you raise help me as I continue to work, with smaller groups now. For example, I ask not only, "how do we decide who decides, but how do we decide what processes, systems, structures, dances, etc., decide what and who decide? It involves some yoga practice!

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Ole Putz at Bielefeld University is working on something similar, studying how social movement groups arrive at collective decisions, using conversation analysis and objective hermeneutics. He should be part of any future conference.

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Yes, Ole contacted me a couple of years ago with an excellent critique of my work on consensus. The kind of pointing out weaknesses in your argument that make you happier than any praise ever could, because it shows someone has really read and und understood (and hence appreciated) your ideas!

Recently, I remembered our email exchange and planned to follow up as soon as I’m done with teaching and paper writing this term.

But it hadn’t occurred to me that he is not on Kunsido yet. So thanks for pointing that out. Will invite him right away. And yes, I hope he will be in Copenhagen!