The structure of knowledge and seller-buyer networks in markets for emergent technologies

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This empirical study compares the impact of knowledge structures on relational patterns in markets for emergent technology and in a mass market within the electronics industry. We hypothesized that in markets for emergent technologies, sellers and buyers do not have a common image of product use, and to reach it they must communicate contextual knowledge rooted in engineering practice. Furthermore, insofar as knowledge is contextual (as opposed to articulated in a mass market), sellers' and buyers' experts must engage in an intense technological dialogue. These hypotheses were tested by a key-parametric qualitative field study and quantitative network analysis. Communication activity was found more intense in the seller-buyer network in the emergent technology market than in the mass market. The seller-buyer network of emergent technology was also more hierarchical, with technical experts located at the center of the technological dialogue regarding product application. Shared practice and co-development proved to be dominant forms of work organization in the market for emergent technologies. By contrast, sequential development epitomized the activities in the seller-buyer network of the standard product. Implications for network theory, economic sociology, and organization studies are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)443-461
Number of pages19
JournalOrganization Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2003


  • Emergent technology
  • Knowledge structure
  • Quasi-firm
  • Social networks
  • Uncertainty
  • Vertical integration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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