Imageries of corporate social responsibility: Visual recontextualization and field-level meaning

Höllerer, Markus and Jancsary, Dennis and Meyer, Renate and Vettori, Oliver (2013) Imageries of corporate social responsibility: Visual recontextualization and field-level meaning. In: Institutional Logics in Action, Part B (Research in the Sociology of Organizations, Volume 39 Part B). Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, UK. pp. 139-174. ISBN 0733-558X


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In this paper, we explore how corporations use visual artifacts to translate and recontextualize a globally theorized managerial concept (CSR) into a local setting (Austria). In our analysis of the field-level visual discourse, we analyze over 1,600 images in stand-alone CSR reports of publicly traded corporations. We borrow from framing analysis and structural linguistics to show how the meaning structure underlying a multifaceted construct like CSR is constituted by no more than a relatively small number of fundamental dimensions and rhetorical standpoints (topoi). We introduce the concept of imageries-of-practice to embrace the critical role that shared visual language plays in the construction of meaning and the emergence of field-level logics. In particular, we argue that imageries-of-practice, compared to verbal vocabularies, are just as well equipped to link locally resonating symbolic representations and globally diffusing practices, thus expressing both the material and ideational dimension of institutional logics in processes of translation. We find that visual rhetoric used in the Austrian discourse emphasizes the qualities of CSR as a bridging concept, and facilitates the mediation of inconsistencies in several ways: By translating abstract global ideas into concrete local knowledge, imageries-of-practice aid in mediating spatial oppositions; by linking the past, present, and future, they bridge time; by mediating between different institutional spheres and their divergent logics, they appease ideational oppositions and reduce institutional complexity; and, finally, by connecting questionable claims with representations of authenticity, they aid in overcoming credibility gaps.

Item Type: Book Section
Additional Information: We wish to express our gratitude to several colleagues who provided valuable comments and helpful suggestions. We are especially indebted to Vitaliano Barberio, Eva Boxenbaum, Christof Brandtner, Maria Grafström, Johanna Hofbauer, Stefan Jonsson, Martin Kornberger, Mike Lounsbury, Manfred Lueger, Michael Meyer, Ryan Raffaeli, Vaughn Tan, Eero Vaara, Sam Warren, and Johanna Winter. Omissions and errors are entirely our own. The authors acknowledge support from the Austrian Science Fund (FWF): I 635-G17.
Keywords: Visual artifacts / imageries-of-practice / visual rhetoric / field-level logics / translation / corporate social responsibility
Divisions: Departments > Strategy and Innovation > Public Management
Forschungsinstitute > Urban Management and Governance
Version of the Document: Accepted for Publication
Variance from Published Version: Minor
Depositing User: ePub Administrator
Date Deposited: 18 Apr 2016 13:31
Last Modified: 24 Jul 2020 14:41
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