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Networks of mind and networks of organizations : the map metaphor in business network research

Geiger, Susi and Finch, J.H. (2010) Networks of mind and networks of organizations : the map metaphor in business network research. Industrial Marketing Management, 39 (3). pp. 381-389.

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Abstract

This paper examines the definitions and uses of the network picture metaphor in industrial marketing research. Conceptually, the paper extends our understanding of networks and of representations of networks among researchers and practitioners as pictures or maps. A threefold interpretation is proposed of network pictures as representationalist, mentalist and situated. The representationalist use has dominated business-to-business network research while the mentalist use is prominent in strategic management and has recently made an entrance into industrial marketing research. The representationalist version of pictures, despite its apparent innocence, can either imply or leave unexamined the mentalist version, but mentalism stands in contradiction to much network thinking. This paper seeks to resolve the emerging contradiction of representationalist and mentalist versions of network pictures by advocating a situated version. Seeing network pictures as situated in use is helpful in grasping cognitions and actions in a manner consistent with networks. The paper concludes by developing the situated version of network pictures as 'actants' and sketches the benefits and implications for business researchers and practitioners.