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Bureaucracy meets digital reality: The unfolding of urban platforms in European municipal governments

Lekkas, C-K. & Souitaris, V. ORCID: 0000-0002-7889-0010 (2022). Bureaucracy meets digital reality: The unfolding of urban platforms in European municipal governments. Organization Studies, 44(10), pp. 1649-1678. doi: 10.1177/01708406221130857


The rise of digital technologies provides an opportunity to study smart cities as new organizational forms. We ask whether and how digital platforms and ecosystems affect the bureaucratic governance of municipal governments. To this end, we offer a multiple case analysis based on rich empirical, longitudinal data of seven European smart cities. We find that the contradicting logic of platform governance creates organisational tensions within the bureaucratic municipal government and at the interface between the municipal government and its external partners. We distil a process that describes how these tensions are resolved through a temporary shift to a non-bureaucratic work mode, and the subsequent formalisation and institutionalisation of those practices as new bureaucratic rules. We make three contributions. First, we contribute to the smart-city literature by outlining an overarching process of how data-driven technologies affect bureaucratic municipal governments. Second, we contribute to the ongoing conversation about the changing nature of Weberian bureaucracy showing how bureaucracy preserves its core while simultaneously adapting to and shaping its environment. Third, we highlight the role of lower-echelon bureaucrats as change agents who devise rules at the intersection of technological and societal development.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This article has been accepted for publication in Organization Studies by SAGE Publications.
Publisher Keywords: smart city, digitalisation, digital platforms, ecosystems, bureaucracy, Max Weber, technology, change, innovation
Subjects: J Political Science > JN Political institutions (Europe)
T Technology > T Technology (General)
Departments: Bayes Business School > Management
SWORD Depositor:
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