Affiliated Organization

University of Amsterdam, Netherlands


This article reports on an ethnographic study performed in a large and distributed,knowledge intensive ICT company. It gives an in-depth account of the introduction of virtualcommunities in this organization and what happened afterwards. When confronted withorganizational change ideas such as virtual community, people make sense of and appropriatethese ideas to make them ‘their own.’ We delve deeply into the arguments and motives behindthe appropriations of the company’s employees, which results into four generalized appropriationpatterns. These appropriations patterns indicate that people respond to change ideas bycomparing the behavioral norms and essences of professional selves prescribed in these ideaswith how they naturally engage in practices of social networking, learning, and professionalidentity construction. This behavior not only explains their degrees of participation and nonparticipationin the virtual communities created, but it also reveals how employees shape theirwork and learning practices.