Ugly Duckling no more: Materiality and Aesthetic Legitimacy in Innovation and Evaluation
Management & Human Resources
Speaker: Candace Jones
University of Edinburg Business School
HEC Campus - Jouy-en-Josas - Room S210
Aesthetics perceives with the sense, and offers a contrast with the predominantly cognitive view of legitimacy, which is being perceived as appropriate within a social system’s rules, norms, values and definitions (Suchman, 1995; Deephouse, Bundy, Tost & Suchman, 2017). We elaborate theory to develop the construct of aesthetic legitimacy that expands evaluations to include beauty (or ugliness) and quality of material products and practices. We then examine the introduction of a new material—reinforced concrete—during 1890 to 1939 in the U.S, which reveals the primarily role of aesthetic codes in the legitimacy process and the interplay of materializing (experiments with the new material), theorizing concrete's material possibilities, and evaluating the new material based on aesthetic codes. The findings reveal that material mimicry and analogies helped to initially legitimate concrete, but then incongruity led to theorizing but only incremental material innovations. It was not until the established relations among materials and aesthetic codes were blown up that new possibilities and greater innovation emerged, which initially were not socially recognized and evaluated within the field. Material innovations were not possible until aesthetic codes shifted and were materialized into new types of buildings.