It is well known even intuitively that novelties destined to subvert the established way of doing things in a given world are often pushed forward by innovators who reside at the periphery of – and at times even outside – that world. The journey of novelty from the margins to the core is as captivating as it is troubling to decode. On the one hand, peripheral innovators stand apart from the norms of their eras. Being less tied to the conventions to which insiders tend to conform, they may recognize solutions that escape incumbents’ attention. Yet the paradox is that the same social position that helps peripherals to pursue imaginative projects that depart from prevailing social and cognitive categories also constrains their ability to obtain support and recognition for their innovations: they lack crucial markers of credibility, social ties to insiders, and most notably, expert authority. What processes allow peripheral actors to stake out some ground in the insiders’ own terrain, especially when their claims to novelty clash with the status quo? Our goal in this talk is to offer an overview of some of the central theoretical and analytical insights we have been developing in our attempts at decoding the journey of novelty. After sharing some central findings of our collaborative research, we will conclude by presenting two works currently in progress that focus on micro and macro mechanisms of novelty legitimation, respectively: one based on the analysis of experimental data, the second based on the analysis of big data.
Discussant: Heike Mayer