Engaging with Emerging Technologies: Socio-cognitive foundations of incumbent response Defended on Friday, 9 October 2020

Managing technological change is existential for incumbent firms. The early episodes of technological change, in particular, are critical. In these early stages, different audiences engage in social debates and negotiations based on their unique and self-interested perceptions, creating an urge for organizational action. To shed further light on this process, I study the socio-cognitive dynamics within technology emergence. In three studies, I explore when and how different social communities engage with emerging technologies based on their expertise and field affiliation, examine the effect of their engagement on incumbent response, and highlight the importance of established regulation for incumbent experimentation with emerging technologies. I find that audience heterogeneity matters. Not only do audiences engage at different times and modes with early technological change, but also that some audiences wield significant power over the engagement of others. Moreover, while expertise appears important for influencing the engagement of other audiences, my results indicate that incumbents are likely to distrust the engagement of experts. Lastly, I find support for the idea that extant regulation may significantly restrict incumbent experimentation with new technologies, particularly for non-innovating firms. Overall, my research confirms that audiences matter. Yet, it also highlights that our current understanding of the socio-cognitive dynamics in technology emergence is incomplete.


Emerging technologies, audience engagement, socio-cognitive foundations, fintech, regulation, audience heterogeneity

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