Thesis advisor: Candace Jones / Thesis advisor: Richard P. Nielsen / The sharing economy has played an important role in transforming today's business landscape. The dissertation consists of two essays that examine different aspects of meanings illuminated by the sharing economy. In each essay, I draw on several theoretical lenses, including institutional logics, legitimacy, and categories, to build theories of how entrepreneurial firms strategically appropriate meanings as resources to shape the attention and the interpretation of their activities and how such cultural meanings emerge and transform. The first essay illustrates the case of Airbnb to examine how an entrepreneurial firm uses institutional logics for legitimacy in navigating multiple audiences with potentially contradictory criteria for legitimacy at different stages of development. The second essay looks at the sharing economy as a category to examine what is used as the central examples of a category by the category promoters (i.e., movement) versus the press, the differences in how the central examples are understood that lead to changes and differences in the category’s meanings, and ultimately affect the survival or decline of a category. I conclude with implications for theories around changes in meanings, the strategic uses of meanings, and their political and moral nature. / Thesis (PhD) — Boston College, 2021. / Submitted to: Boston College. Carroll School of Management. / Discipline: Management and Organization.
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